More pressure will be piled onto Boris Johnson tomorrow over the Conservatives’ record on sleaze and corruption as the scandal over Owen Paterson’s lobbying activities rolls on.
There will be a debate in parliament that will see Labour given an opportunity to hammer the government over the saga, which saw Paterson resign on Thursday.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tonight said Johnson “must begin to clean out the filthy Augean stable he has created”.
“The country is yet to hear a word of contrition over his attempts to create one rule for him and his friends and another for everyone else,” Starmer said.
Votes to veto Paterson’s proposed 30-day suspension – for his role as a £100,000 lobbyist for two private firms – and dismantle the standards process for MPs were rammed through parliament by Tory backbenchers and the government on Wednesday.
Johnson U-turned in the face of a fierce backlash just 24 hours later and the North Shropshire MP resigned soon after.
Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major, whose government was blighted by sleaze and corruption scandals, said Johnson’s handling of the Paterson case was “shameful” and that there’s “a general whiff of ‘we are the masters now’ about [the government’s] behaviour”.
The Conservatives were further embroiled in controversy today as a Sunday Times/Open Democracy investigation revealed the party’s past 16 treasurers, who had all donated more than £3m to the Tories, had been offered places in the House of Lords.
Environment secretary George Eustice said the past week’s events were all just a “Westminster storm in a teacup”, however polling out yesterday may suggest otherwise.
An Observer/Opinium poll showed Johnson’s approval rating was at its lowest ever ebb, -20, and that his 11-point lead over Starmer as preferred prime minister had been slashed by 10 points in one week.
A senior Tory MP told City A.M. that the growing scandal is “well beyond a Westminster issue” and that they had received a fierce backlash from constituents.
“A lot of people in my constituency, who are traditional Conservatives, are finding some of things this government is doing really worrying,” they said.
“What I’m hearing on MP WhatsApp groups is that across the country this has caused people to question the integrity of Conservative MPs.”
Speaking to Sky News, Eustice said: “What we’ve seen is a sort of Westminster storm in a teacup, if I may say so. Yes, we made a mistake in bringing that forward in the way that we did, so we withdrew it.”