Main menu

Pages

The knives are out for Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chief Whip as PM is told to ‘clear out’ No10 top team 

The knives are out for Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chief Whip as PM is told to ‘clear out’ No10 top team 

Allies of Boris Johnson last night told him to sort out the ‘shambles’ in No 10 as backbenchers warned his authority has been ‘truly shattered’.

Senior Conservatives urged the Prime Minister to conduct a major overhaul of his top team in the wake of his botched handling of the Owen Paterson sleaze row.

Lord Moylan, an adviser to Mr Johnson during his time as London mayor, said the Prime Minister was being ‘let down badly’ by both his ministers and inner circle in Downing Street.

‘There’s no escaping the fact that the No 10 operation is a shambles, worst for decades,’ said the Tory peer.

‘It needs a thorough clear out, with new people who both share the PM’s ambitions for the UK and can think out consequences of what they do.’

He added: ‘As for the Cabinet, there are lots of capable people at different levels in the Government but we don’t see them and instead continue with a Cabinet that, at best, fails to inspire and, at worst, fails to deliver.

‘Boris Johnson deserves better. [It is] not too late for him to act on this.’

This comes as: 

  • Boris Johnson is seen as leading the most corrupt government in 40 years 
  • Tory MPs are deeply split over the handling of the Owen Paterson affair 
  • Many newer MPs in Northern Wall seats are angry over being whipped to support Paterson because of the impact it has on their re-election chances 
  • The PM has vowed not to reveal the cost of his luxury holiday in Ben Goldsmith’s £25,000-a-night luxury villa 
  • Ministers have admitted making mistakes over supporting Paterson  

The warning came as Tory MPs vented their fury at being ordered to vote to tear up the Commons disciplinary system to stop Mr Paterson from being suspended for 30 days, only for the Government to perform a spectacular U-turn the next day.

Backbenchers said it would be impossible for the party whips to assert their authority when there are difficult votes in future.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council and Chief Whip Mark Spencer are blamed for their  'disastrous strategy'

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council and Chief Whip Mark Spencer are blamed for their  'disastrous strategy'

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council and Chief Whip Mark Spencer are blamed for their  ‘disastrous strategy’

Boris Johnson holidaying in Benahavis, Spain. Lord Moylan, an adviser to Mr Johnson during his time as London mayor, said the Prime Minister was being ‘let down badly’ by both his ministers and inner circle in Downing Street

Boris Johnson holidaying in Benahavis, Spain. Lord Moylan, an adviser to Mr Johnson during his time as London mayor, said the Prime Minister was being ‘let down badly’ by both his ministers and inner circle in Downing Street

Boris Johnson holidaying in Benahavis, Spain. Lord Moylan, an adviser to Mr Johnson during his time as London mayor, said the Prime Minister was being ‘let down badly’ by both his ministers and inner circle in Downing Street

‘The power of a three line whip is well and truly shattered,’ one said. ‘There is a huge disconnect between the Downing Street team and the parliamentary party.’

Another said the ‘knives are out’ for Chief Whip Mark Spencer and Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, who are blamed for the disastrous strategy.

Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday conceded the Government made ‘a mistake’ in its attempt to protect Mr Paterson.

The Education Secretary said it should not have been combined with a wider move to overhaul the Commons standards regime.

‘The Prime Minister has always been very clear that paid lobbying is not allowed,’ he told Sky News. ‘The mistake is the conflation of creating a fairer system with the right of appeal for Parliamentarians to be able to put forward an appeal process.

‘Conflating that with the particular case of Owen Paterson was a mistake… upon reflection yes it was a mistake.’

Sir David Lidington, former leader of the House of Commons, said the row had damaged politicians’ reputations.

Boris Johnson went on a foreign holiday for the first time in nearly two years, jetting off to Marbella with his pregnant wife Carrie and their son Wilf, pictured is their private villa on the Costa sel Sol

Boris Johnson went on a foreign holiday for the first time in nearly two years, jetting off to Marbella with his pregnant wife Carrie and their son Wilf, pictured is their private villa on the Costa sel Sol

Boris Johnson went on a foreign holiday for the first time in nearly two years, jetting off to Marbella with his pregnant wife Carrie and their son Wilf, pictured is their private villa on the Costa sel Sol

‘Clearly there was a pretty appalling set of misjudgments involved,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘The reputation of the House of Commons as an institution and MPs of all parties will have been damaged by the events of the last 24 hours.’

The former Conservative MP also said the affair has ‘weakened the Government’, making it harder for Mr Johnson to win support from backbench MPs on potentially unpopular measures in future.

‘If you ask your troops to march through the lobby on something like this – which they don’t think is right – and then you U-turn on it, it’s going to be more difficult next time around,’ he said.

Lord Barwell, who was Theresa May’s chief-of-staff, said the decision to whip MPs to vote for Mr Paterson to be spared punishment was a ‘terrible mistake’.

He told LBC Radio: ‘The Prime Minister… will have significantly dented his reputation with Conservative MPs who will be livid that they were whipped to vote for something, took a huge amount of flak understandably from their constituents, and then saw a U-turn in less than 24 hours.

Boris Johnson's allies have urged the Prime Minister to conduct a major overhaul of his top team in the wake of his botched handling of the Owen Paterson sleaze row

Boris Johnson's allies have urged the Prime Minister to conduct a major overhaul of his top team in the wake of his botched handling of the Owen Paterson sleaze row

Boris Johnson’s allies have urged the Prime Minister to conduct a major overhaul of his top team in the wake of his botched handling of the Owen Paterson sleaze row

‘It remains to be seen how much damage is done to the standing of the Conservative Party with the general public.’

Chris Bryant, the Labour chairman of the Commons standards committee, last night called on Mr Rees-Mogg to quit.

‘I personally think the Leader of the House’s position has become untenable. He has created a crisis for Parliament by standing out and talking for 45 minutes in favour of a motion that was the direct, polar opposite of the rule of law,’ Mr Bryant told the i paper.

He also revealed that Kathryn Stone, the independent standards commissioner, has been given additional security as a result of an ‘orchestrated smear campaign’ against her.

Number 10 confirmed yesterday that the Johnsons’ October stay at the Marbella home of Lord Goldsmith would not be placed on the register of MPs’ financial interests, which would require him to say how much it was worth.

The move to keep secret the value of the visit to the Torre Tramores estate, which had a rental value of £25,000 per night, is the Prime Minister’s latest confrontation with political transparency watchdogs.

Last night it was revealed he is is facing the threat of a new probe into the opulent revamp of his Downing Street flat by the Commons Standards Commissioner he has attempted to undermine.

As a result of the questions of impropriety, Boris Johnson is leading the ‘sleaziest’ government in more than 40 years of British politics and is considered more than twice as ‘sleazy’ as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, according to a Daily Mail poll.

In the week that the Owen Paterson scandal led to accusations of a return to Tory corruption, voters believe MPs should be ordered to give up lucrative second jobs outside Parliament – with claims of wrong-doing investigated by a High Court judge, not politicians themselves, the survey found.

But even amid widespread criticism of his bungled handling of an attempt to ditch the parliamentary standards system, the Prime Minister is still ahead of Sir Keir in the personal ratings war. 

Clean up your act, Boris! As Owen Paterson corruption row rages, voters say this government is mired in worst sleaze for decades

Boris Johnson is leading the ‘sleaziest’ government in more than 40 years of British politics and is considered more than twice as ‘sleazy’ as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, according to a Daily Mail poll.

In the week that the Owen Paterson scandal led to accusations of a return to Tory corruption, voters believe MPs should be ordered to give up lucrative second jobs outside Parliament – with claims of wrong-doing investigated by a High Court judge, not politicians themselves, the survey found.

But even amid widespread criticism of his bungled handling of an attempt to ditch the parliamentary standards system, the Prime Minister is still ahead of Sir Keir in the personal ratings war.

The poll was carried out during an extraordinary week in Westminster, which ended with former Cabinet minister Mr Paterson resigning as an MP – and senior Tories seriously questioning the judgment of Mr Johnson, who had backed him.

The Owen Paterson scandal led to accusations of a return to Tory corruption, voters believe MPs should be ordered to give up lucrative second jobs outside Parliament, the Daily Mail poll revealed

The Owen Paterson scandal led to accusations of a return to Tory corruption, voters believe MPs should be ordered to give up lucrative second jobs outside Parliament, the Daily Mail poll revealed

The Owen Paterson scandal led to accusations of a return to Tory corruption, voters believe MPs should be ordered to give up lucrative second jobs outside Parliament, the Daily Mail poll revealed

Mr Paterson had previously been found guilty of breaking Commons rules by lobbying for two firms that paid him £500,000, and was facing a 30-day suspension from the Commons as punishment.

In an attempt to let Mr Paterson off the hook, the Government backed and won a vote on plans to tear up Parliament’s anti-sleaze rules on Wednesday.

But the next morning, the Government was forced into a humiliating U-turn in the face a public outcry and anger among Tories, who had been forced to back the amendment.

With Mr Johnson’s support effectively withdrawn, Mr Paterson quit what he described as ‘the cruel world of politics’ on Thursday.

The JL Partners poll for the Mail shows that nearly one in three (31 per cent) believe Mr Johnson’s administration is the worst behaved in terms of corruption, dating back to Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1979.

A total of 22 per cent say Tony Blair’s government was ‘sleazy’, with 9 per cent of voters awarding the same badge of shame to David Cameron’s administration.

In today’s Mail poll, 69 per cent of voters say the Prime Minister was wrong to order Tory MPs to vote in favour of letting Mr Paterson off

In today’s Mail poll, 69 per cent of voters say the Prime Minister was wrong to order Tory MPs to vote in favour of letting Mr Paterson off

In today’s Mail poll, 69 per cent of voters say the Prime Minister was wrong to order Tory MPs to vote in favour of letting Mr Paterson off

By contrast, the governments of former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown and ex-Conservative PM Theresa May are seen as ‘sleazy’ by only 2 per cent of voters.

A total of 53 per cent say Mr Johnson is ‘sleazy’, but only 20 per cent place Sir Keir in the same category.

Similarly, nearly half (46 per cent) say the Conservative Party as a whole is ‘sleazy’, but only 17 per cent would apply the description to Labour.

A separate poll showed the Tories’ five-point lead over Labour a week ago has narrowed to just one point.

In today’s Mail poll, 69 per cent of voters say the Prime Minister was wrong to order Tory MPs to vote in favour of letting Mr Paterson off.

A total of 71 per cent say he should return the £500,000 he earned from his two ‘second jobs’.

More than six in ten (61 per cent) say all MPs should be banned from having second jobs and 81 per cent say an independent body led by a High Court judge should take over the task of dealing with corruption claims against them.

Asked if Mr Paterson had been right to claim that the inquiry into his behaviour contributed to the suicide of his wife, Rose, last year, 33 per cent say he was wrong to have done so; 15 per cent backed his decision.

A stark warning this week by former MI5 chief Lord Evans, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, that Britain could ‘slip into becoming a corrupt country’ struck a chord with the public.

A total of 53 per cent say Mr Johnson is ‘sleazy’, but only 20 per cent place Sir Keir in the same category

A total of 53 per cent say Mr Johnson is ‘sleazy’, but only 20 per cent place Sir Keir in the same category

A total of 53 per cent say Mr Johnson is ‘sleazy’, but only 20 per cent place Sir Keir in the same category

A total of 57 per cent agree and 18 per cent disagree.

But Sir Keir and Labour appear to have gained little from accusing Mr Johnson of ‘leading his Tory troops through the sewer’ in a doomed bid to save Mr Paterson.

Asked who is the better leader, 41 per cent choose Mr Johnson; 27 per cent choose Sir Keir.

The Conservatives are also seen as more competent than Labour, which is still seen as far more divided party.

James Johnson, of JL Partners, said: ‘People who have heard about the Paterson scandal are outraged by it, and are scathing about the way the Conservatives tried to scrap the system of dealing with complaints against MPs.

‘In the public’s eyes, this was merely to protect one of their own.’ He continued: The public – angry about this attempt to weaken Parliamentary scrutiny – want the system made much tougher.’

The pollster added: ‘So far, however, this episode has not been as damaging as [former senior No 10 aide] Dominic Cummings flouting Covid lockdown rules with his infamous trip to Barnard Castle – which felt much more personally insulting to voters.’

A total of 1,021 adults took part in the online survey in Britain on Wednesday.  

 

Boris vs the sleaze watchdogs: Now PM REFUSES to tell Commons regulator how much his Marbella freebie holiday was worth … as he ALSO faces new ‘wallpapergate’ probe after botched attempt to block MP’s lobbying punishment

Boris Johnson is facing mounting sleaze fury today after refusing to reveal the value of a free family holiday he was given at the lavish Spanish estate of one of his richest ministers.

Downing Street confirmed this morning that the Johnsons’ October stay at the Marbella home of Lord Goldsmith would not be placed on the register of MPs’ financial interests, which would require him to say how much it was worth.

Does Boris Johnson have to declare the cost of his holiday? 

Boris Johnson might have been burned by his abortive bid to save ally Owen Paterson from lobbying punishment – but he still seems to have the appetite for a battle over other Commons rules.

The PM has declared his recent holiday to a luxury villa near Marbella, offered free of charge by the Goldsmith family, solely on the register of ministerial interests.

That would seem at odds with his own previous decision to list a 2019 trip to Mustique with now-wife Carrie, where again the accommodation was donated for free, on the Commons register.

Downing Street insists that the difference is Lord Goldsmith is a minister, and so the ministerial register is the appropriate place.

They argue that it was an ‘arrangement in his ministerial capacity, given this was hospitality provided by another minister’.

However, the ministerial register is not typically used for listing this kind of interest.

Instead it typically features general interests such as the fact that RAF Brize Norton is in Mr Johnson’s constituency, and that he is a patron of the Anglo Turkish Society.

Conveniently, there is no specific format for declarations on the ministerial register.

That means Mr Johnson has not given any estimate for the value of the gift from the Goldsmith family – something he would need to do on the Commons version.

No10 was unclear tonight whether it would have felt obliged to list the freebie with parliament if Lord Goldsmith was not a minister.

As other members of the Goldsmith family appear to have a stake in the Marbella property, the Commons standards commissioner might consider that they have also made a gift to the PM.

Historically premiers have listed similar jaunts on the Commons register. Tony Blair gave details of his stays at Cliff Richard’s Barbados villa, saying he had made charitable donations to offset the benefit.

Separately, No10 also seems to be relying on a passage in the Commons rules that gifts need not be declared unless they relate to a politician’s ‘membership of the House or to their parliamentary or political activities’.

They pointed to a section of the code which states that MPs do not need to register ‘visits wholly unconnected with membership of the House or with the Member’s parliamentary or political activities (e.g. family holidays)’.

However, if the trip was considered a declarable ministerial interest Mr Johnson might struggle to argue that it was wholly unconnected to political activities.

 

<!—->
Advertisement

The move to keep secret the value of the visit to the Torre Tramores estate, which had a rental value of £25,000 per night, is the Prime Minister’s latest confrontation with political transparency watchdogs.

Last night it was revealed he is is facing the threat of a new probe into the opulent revamp of his Downing Street flat by the Commons Standards Commissioner he has attempted to undermine.

The Daily Mail understands that the commissioner will make a decision on whether to launch an inquiry into the funding of the refurbishment as soon as a separate probe being conducted by the Electoral Commission has been completed. 

The Prime Minister was forced last night to deny claims that his botched effort to overhaul the standards process had been a ‘pre-emptive’ strike on Kathryn Stone.

Cabinet minister Kwasi Kwarteng yesterday suggested the parliamentary standards commissioner’s role was untenable in the wake of the row over Owen Paterson

But she appears to be on firm ground after Mr Johnson’s U-turn led to Mr Paterson’s resignation as an MP and widespread fury among his backbenchers.

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points.

The party is now just one point ahead of Labour, after dropping from 39 per cent to 36 per cent in a week, while Keir Starmer has seen a boost to 35 per cent, according to the survey in The Times. 

The latest brazen behaviour by Mr Johnson could also fuel an escalating spat with Speaker Lindsay Hoyle over ministers failing to show respect for Parliament. 

Sir Lindsay has repeatedly rebuked the government for making announcements in press conferences and interviews instead of coming to the Commons.

In the latest spat yesterday, the Speaker tore into Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng for suggesting that standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson should resign.

When registering the stay in the less exacting Register of Ministerial Interests the PM said it was owned by ‘the Goldsmiths’. 

And his entry in the Lords’ register of members interest Lord Goldsmith himself  mentions ‘land in Andalucia owned by a family trust of which the member is a beneficiary’. 

One Commons source told MailOnline that if the villa was owned by the Goldsmith family it could not be treated solely as a gift from Lord Goldsmith – which could torpedo No10’s arguments against putting it on the MP register.

‘It’s the arrogance now,’ another Westminster source said. ‘Things like this will bring them down. They are spending credit at such a rate. It is absurd.’

Downing Street today claimed that because the Johnsons’ holiday in Spain last month was provided by a minister it falls outside the remit of the House of Commons financial probity watchdog. 

The holiday was yesterday revealed on the ministerial register of interests as having provided free of charge by Goldsmith, a former MP and friend of Carrie Johnson who was handed a peerage by Mr Johnson after losing his Commons seat in 2019.

The Prime Minister quietly revealed in the latest list of ministerial interests that Lord Goldsmith allowed him, Carrie and Wilfred to stay at his £25,000-per-night estate near Marbella without payment.

The Prime Minister quietly revealed in the latest list of ministerial interests that Lord Goldsmith allowed him, Carrie and Wilfred to stay at his £25,000-per-night estate near Marbella without payment.

The Prime Minister quietly revealed in the latest list of ministerial interests that Lord Goldsmith allowed him, Carrie and Wilfred to stay at his £25,000-per-night estate near Marbella without payment.

A No 10 spokesman today said the holiday provided by 'a longstanding friend' of the PM had been registered correctly.

A No 10 spokesman today said the holiday provided by 'a longstanding friend' of the PM had been registered correctly.

A No 10 spokesman today said the holiday provided by ‘a longstanding friend’ of the PM had been registered correctly.

In the latest register, released yesterday, a simple paragraph reads: 'The Prime Minister has a longstanding personal friendship with the Goldsmith family and, in that capacity, in October 2021, stayed in a holiday home in southern Spain which was provided free of charge by the Goldsmiths. 'Given Lord Goldsmith is a Minister of the Crown, the arrangement has accordingly been declared.'

In the latest register, released yesterday, a simple paragraph reads: 'The Prime Minister has a longstanding personal friendship with the Goldsmith family and, in that capacity, in October 2021, stayed in a holiday home in southern Spain which was provided free of charge by the Goldsmiths. 'Given Lord Goldsmith is a Minister of the Crown, the arrangement has accordingly been declared.'

In the latest register, released yesterday, a simple paragraph reads: ‘The Prime Minister has a longstanding personal friendship with the Goldsmith family and, in that capacity, in October 2021, stayed in a holiday home in southern Spain which was provided free of charge by the Goldsmiths. ‘Given Lord Goldsmith is a Minister of the Crown, the arrangement has accordingly been declared.’

Goldsmith is the former MP for Richmond Park – a close friend of the PM’s wife – who was elevated to the peerage by Mr Johnson after losing his seat at the 2019 election.

The move allowed the 46-year-old (pictured at Cop26 this week with the Prince of Wales)  to remain in Government as an environment minister. He is currently Minister for the Pacific and the Environment.

The move allowed the 46-year-old (pictured at Cop26 this week with the Prince of Wales)  to remain in Government as an environment minister. He is currently Minister for the Pacific and the Environment.

The move allowed the 46-year-old (pictured at Cop26 this week with the Prince of Wales)  to remain in Government as an environment minister. He is currently Minister for the Pacific and the Environment.

Paterson drops scandal-linked £100,000 consultancy work after quitting Parliament

Owen Paterson has dropped the consultancy work that led to the end of his political career after quitting the Commons, he revealed today.

The former North Shropshire MP confirmed he was dropping all business interests including work for Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods, who between them paid him more than £100,000 per year.

It was lobbying efforts on their behalf which led to censure from parliament’s standards watchdog and this week’s astonishing events which culminated in his downfall. 

In a tweet today he said he would be ‘stepping aside’ from his consultancy work following his resignation from the Commons.

‘Thank you to the many people who have sent their kind wishes to me and my family this week,’ he wrote.

‘At this difficult time, I will be stepping aside from my current consultancy work to focus on my family and suicide prevention.’

Mr Paterson officially resigned his seat today by being appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.

There is no official process for an MP to stand down from the Commons and the Parliament website says that ‘unless they die or are expelled they must become disqualified if they wish to retire before the end of a Parliament’.

However they can be made ineligible to be an MP under law by taking one of two offices of profit under the Crown – Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds, or Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.

The unpaid roles have no responsibilities but the process allows MPs to resign within the law.

<!—->
Advertisement

But an entry on the separate MPs register would require revealing how much the benefit in kind was worth.  The Torre Tramores estate, where Mr Johnson, Carrie and their son Wilfred stayed, is available for private rent at a cost of £25,000 per night for a secluded retreat with its own private helipad. 

A No 10 spokesman today said the holiday provided by ‘a longstanding friend’ had been registered correctly.

‘The Prime Minister’s met the transparency requirements in relation to this, he declared this arrangement in his ministerial capacity, given this was hospitality provided by another minister,’ he said.

However, the ministerial code entry says the property was provided by ‘the Goldsmiths’, not just the minister. 

He added that the PM has written to the House of Commons registrar ‘to set out’ the arrangement. He did not clarify when asked whether the registrar had replied to Mr Johnson’s letter, but added: ‘As I say, ministerial code declarations fall outside the remit of the House of Commons registrar and Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.’

Labour has demanded a probe into the holiday by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner. In a letter last night deputy leader Angela Rayner said: ‘Lord Goldsmith was given a peerage and a ministerial job by Mr Johnson. The public could understandably draw the conclusion in this case that the Prime Minister is dishing out cushy jobs to his friends who pay for his luxury holidays. 

‘We cannot have a situation where Boris Johnson behaves like it’s one rule for him and another for everyone else. I would be grateful for your guidance on whether this is a breach of the rules, and whether you will investigate the Member of Parliament for Uxbridge and South Ruislip.’

Downing Street has justified its decision by pointing to a section in the Code of Conduct for MPs regarding trips abroad which says that among those that do not need to be declared are ‘visits wholly unconnected with membership of the House or with the Member’s parliamentary or political activities (e.g. family holidays)’.  

The spokesman added that the PM’s ministerial standards adviser Lord Geidt had scrutinised the declaration as part of the process. 

Asked why the PM’s Marbella holiday did not need to be declared on the register of members’ interests, the spokesman replied: ‘The ministerial code declarations fall outside the remit of the House of Commons register.’ 

Goldsmith is the former MP for Richmond Park who was elevated to the peerage by Mr Johnson after losing his seat to the Liberal Democrats.

The move allowed the 46-year-old to remain in Government as an environment minister. He is currently Minister for the Pacific and the Environment having been given an additional role in a 2020 reshuffle.

The stay at the Torre Tramores in early October sparked fury as Mr Johnson left the UK amid a gas price crisis that struck businesses. 

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points

Boris Johnson could  face a THIRD probe over ‘Wallpapergate’ 

Boris Johnson is facing the threat of a new probe into the lavish revamp of his Downing Street flat.

Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone is set to make a decision on whether to launch an inquiry into the funding of the refurbishment as soon as a separate probe being conducted by the Electoral Commission has been completed. 

The Commission has handed over its initial findings to Tory party chiefs who now have an opportunity to respond before it is published.

Tory donor Lord Brownlow paid an invoice to cover some of the costs for the works, effectively giving Mr Johnson a loan, before the PM eventually settled the bill himself. 

However, this was not declared until after the Daily Mail published a string of exposes. Eco-friendly interior designer Lulu Lytle was hired to transform the flat with gold wallpaper costing as much as £840 a roll.

Lord Geidt, the ministerial standards adviser, earlier this year found Mr Johnson did not breach the ministerial code but acted ‘unwisely’ in allowing the refurbishment to go ahead without ‘more rigorous regard for how this would be funded’.

The Electoral Commission is carrying out a separate investigation into whether donations to the party were properly declared.

 

<!—->
Advertisement

In the latest register, released yesterday, a simple paragraph reads: ‘The Prime Minister has a longstanding personal friendship with the Goldsmith family and, in that capacity, in October 2021, stayed in a holiday home in southern Spain which was provided free of charge by the Goldsmiths. 

‘Given Lord Goldsmith is a Minister of the Crown, the arrangement has accordingly been declared.’

But the Liberal Democrat’s Wendy Chamberlain said: ‘Boris Johnson and the Tories have shown this week they don’t have a shred of integrity left.

‘The Independent Standards Commissioner should urgently launch an investigation into whether Boris Johnson breached the code of conduct by failing to properly declare his holiday.

 ‘The Tories have shown they can’t be trusted to mark their own homework on this issue. They are now the party of sleaze.’

The position adopted by Mr Johnson comes after he registered his previous controversial holiday with the Commons authorities.

Kathryn Stone, the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards,  castigated the Prime Minister in the summer over a lavish £15,000 Caribbean holiday in 2019 funded by Tory donors.

But he was saved from punishment – which could have included being the first serving premier to be suspended from the Commons, by MPs who overturned her ruling.  

The cross-party Standards Committee found the PM had made an ‘accurate and complete’ declaration about the holiday in December 2019, saying it was a donation from Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross even though the couple did not stay in his villa.

The committee – chaired by Labour MP Chris Bryant – over-ruled Ms Stone after she concluded that Mr Johnson did breach the Code of Conduct for MPs during a 15-month wrangle after initially failing to provide a full explanation, slamming him for ‘not showing the accountability required of those in public life’.

The report also suggested that the premier himself did not know exactly how the jaunt was being funded until after he arrived on Mustique and realised he was not staying in Mr Ross’s own property.  

Boris Johnson, pictured here with his wife Carrie during the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall in June, is facing a new sleaze probe into his affairs, this time in relation to the controversial refurbishment of his Downing Street flat

Boris Johnson, pictured here with his wife Carrie during the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall in June, is facing a new sleaze probe into his affairs, this time in relation to the controversial refurbishment of his Downing Street flat

Boris Johnson, pictured here with his wife Carrie during the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall in June, is facing a new sleaze probe into his affairs, this time in relation to the controversial refurbishment of his Downing Street flat

Boris Johnson commissioned eco-friendly interior designer Lulu Lytle whose gold wallpaper can cost as much as £840 a roll. Tory donor Lord Brownlow initially paid an invoice to over some of the costs before the BP settled the bill himself

Boris Johnson commissioned eco-friendly interior designer Lulu Lytle whose gold wallpaper can cost as much as £840 a roll. Tory donor Lord Brownlow initially paid an invoice to over some of the costs before the BP settled the bill himself

Boris Johnson commissioned eco-friendly interior designer Lulu Lytle whose gold wallpaper can cost as much as £840 a roll. Tory donor Lord Brownlow initially paid an invoice to over some of the costs before the BP settled the bill himself 

Tory poll lead plunges FIVE POINTS in the wake of Owen Paterson shambles 

Boris Johnson is struggling to contain mounting fury on Tory benches today as a poll laid bare the damage inflicted by his bungled effort to save ally Owen Paterson from punishment for lobbying.

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points.

The party is now just one point ahead of Labour, after dropping from 39 per cent to 36 per cent in a week, while Keir Starmer has seen a boost to 35 per cent, according to the survey in The Times.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government ‘made a mistake’ in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson’s case to wider reforms.

Meanwhile, a blame game is in full swing over who was responsible for the meltdown – which culminated last night when Mr Paterson resigned from the Commons after the PM cut him loose. His exit was made official this morning when he was appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead – the traditional way for MPs to quit the House. 

<!—->
Advertisement

Meanwhile the Electoral Commission has handed over its initial findings on wallpapergate to Tory party chiefs who now have an opportunity to respond.

Tory donor Lord Brownlow paid an invoice to cover some of the costs for the works, effectively giving Mr Johnson a loan, before the PM eventually settled the bill himself. However, this was not declared until after the Mail published a string of exposes. Eco-friendly interior designer Lulu Lytle was hired to transform the flat with gold wallpaper costing as much as £840 a roll.

Lord Geidt, the ministerial standards adviser, earlier this year found Mr Johnson did not breach the ministerial code but acted ‘unwisely’ in allowing the refurbishment to go ahead without ‘more rigorous regard for how this would be funded’.

The Electoral Commission is carrying out a separate investigation into whether donations to the party were properly declared.

An inquiry by Miss Stone would be the third probe into the matter if she goes ahead. Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner requested in June that she investigate. Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s former chief aide, yesterday claimed in a tweet that the Government’s bid to change the standards process to spare Mr Paterson from being punished was actually ‘a pre-emptive strike by [the] PM on [the] EC (Electoral Commission) and [Miss] Stone’. 

But No 10 denied the planned overhaul had been designed to protect Mr Johnson’s own interests.

Meanwhile, a blame game is in full swing over who was responsible for the Owen Paterson standards meltdown – which culminated last night when Mr Paterson resigned from the Commons after the PM cut him loose.

His exit was made official this morning when he was appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead – the traditional way for MPs to quit the House.

As well as a wave of anger about Mr Johnson’s lack of judgment, many Tories have been pointing the finger at chief whip Mark Spencer, saying he should have realised that the tactic would not ‘fly’. One MP told MailOnline that Mr Spencer had not done his job properly.  

Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer (R) is also under fire, with some Tories saying he should resign over the debacle concerning Owen Paterson

Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer (R) is also under fire, with some Tories saying he should resign over the debacle concerning Owen Paterson

Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer (R) is also under fire, with some Tories saying he should resign over the debacle concerning Owen Paterson

‘If the PM was told about the extent of disatisfaction then he wouldn’t have pushed it,’ they said. ‘You could tell there was a problem because the whips were literally running around the Commons.’

The premier is said to be ‘p****d off’ that the crisis has distracted from the progress being made on climate change at the Cop26 conference in Glasgow. Senior MPs said he was also ‘livid’ about triumphalist interviews by Mr Paterson in which he claimed he would not change anything about his past behaviour. 

No10 has been forced to deny claims that his botched effort to overhaul the standards process had been a ‘pre-emptive’ strike on commissioner Kathryn Stone – with whom Mr Johnson has clashed repeatedly.

He is still under the threat of inquiry by the watchdog into the funding of his Downing Street flat refurbishment, with a decision due to be taken on whether to go ahead once a separate Electoral Commission investigation.

No10, however, was quick to reject suggestions that the case was linked to attempts to reform the rules over the last few days. 

Opposition parties pass on chance to field ‘anti-sleaze’ candidate against Tories in North Shropshire 

No single ‘anti-sleaze’ candidate will be fielded to challenge the Tories to replace Owen Paterson after Labour and the Lib Dems confirmed they would fight the by-election.

Casual communications between the opposition parties to field a unity candidate in North Shropshire had taken place, but the move was not considered viable and both parties said on Friday they would fight for the seat.

It has been vacated by the former Cabinet minister’s resignation following a 24-hour debacle during which Boris Johnson humiliatingly U-turned after attempting to overhaul the disciplinary process to save him from suspension.

Mr Paterson, a long-standing friend of the Prime Minister, had been found to have breached Commons rules by lobbying officials and ministers for two companies paying him more than £100,000 a year.

The rural constituency is considered ultra-safe for the Tories, with Mr Paterson having held it since 1997, but allegations of sleaze aimed at the Conservatives under the current leadership will likely feature strongly in the contest.

A date is yet to be set for the by-election in North Shropshire, where Mr Paterson won 63 per cent of the vote in 2019, beating Labour by nearly 23,000 votes, with the Lib Dems coming a distant third. 

<!—->
Advertisement

 

Vicious blame game erupts after Boris’s sleaze U-turn fiasco: Livid Tories target ‘out of his depth’ chief whip Mark Spencer – but allies insist he had ‘total support and approval’ from PM who flew back from COP hours before vote

Livid Tories today hammered chief whip Mark Spencer over the Commons sleaze shambles branding him ‘out of his depth’ and warning his credibility is ‘below junk bond status’.

Mr Spencer is facing the wrath of many MPs over the bungled bid to save Owen Paterson from punishment over lobbying, which culminated in an humiliating U-turn and the ex-minister resigning from parliament.

The meltdown is said to have left some MPs in marginal Red Wall seats ‘in tears’ as they were hit with a barrage of abuse on social media and in their postbags. 

However, allies of Mr Spencer have hit back by pointing the finger at Mr Johnson – saying the chief would not have acted without ‘total support and approval’ from No10. 

The backlash has intensified after a poll suggested the Tories have suffered huge damage from the debacle, with their poll lead plunging by five points in a week.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government ‘made a mistake’ in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson’s case to wider reforms.

But a blame game is in full swing over who was responsible for the meltdown. As well as a wave of anger about Mr Johnson’s lack of judgment – with criticism that took his eye off the ball amid the COP26 summit – Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg and Mr Spencer are taking flak. 

One former minister told MailOnline that Mr Spencer had not done his job properly.  ‘If the PM was told about the extent of dissatisfaction then he wouldn’t have pushed it,’ they said. ‘You could tell there was a problem because the whips were literally running around the Commons.’

Another Conservative MP said Mr Spencer is a ‘very nice guy’ but ‘out of his depth’. ‘The Cabinet is full of nodding yes men,’ they raged. ‘We have a chief whip who doesn’t communicate anything back to No10 that he doesn’t think No10 wants to hear.

‘There’s a mindset of we’ve got an 80-strong majority, we can do whatever the hell we like.

‘I had two marginal male MPs from Red Wall seats in tears looking at their social media feed, looking at their emails coming in after the vote, going ‘what the hell have we done?’.’

The MP insisted that his colleagues were determined not to be ‘sh** on’ again and would simply ignore stupid demands from the leadership.

‘The chat on the WhatsApp groups is that the whips can stick their whipping up their a***. It’s now every man for himself,’ they said.

The premier is said to be ‘p****d off’ that the crisis has distracted from the progress being made on climate change at the Cop26 conference in Glasgow. Senior MPs said he was also ‘livid’ about triumphalist interviews by Mr Paterson in which he claimed he would not change anything about his past behaviour. 

Mr Johnson’s media advisers are thought to have warned that the tactics were high-risk, but those pushing the political benefits of shoring up Mr Paterson and reforming the standards regime won the internal argument. 

No10 has been forced to deny claims that his botched effort to overhaul the standards process had been a ‘pre-emptive’ strike on commissioner Kathryn Stone – with whom Mr Johnson has clashed repeatedly.

He is still under the threat of inquiry by the watchdog into the funding of his Downing Street flat refurbishment, with a decision due to be taken on whether to go ahead once a separate Electoral Commission investigation.

No10, however, was quick to reject suggestions that the case was linked to attempts to reform the rules over the last few days.  

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

Owen Paterson

Owen Paterson

Mr Johnson (left) first ordered Tory MPs to ram through plans to tear up Parliament’s anti-sleaze rules to save Mr Paterson (right), before abandoning the idea in the face of a public outcry. 

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government 'made a mistake' in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson's case to wider reforms

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government 'made a mistake' in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson's case to wider reforms

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government ‘made a mistake’ in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson’s case to wider reforms

What happens next after Boris Johnson’s humiliating U-turn on standards shake-up? 

Tory MPs won a vote on Wednesday to block the suspension of Owen Paterson and to overhaul the House of Commons’ standards system. 

But the Government has now announced a U-turn following a ferocious backlash. 

What has the Government U-turned on and what will happen next?

The Government performed a U-turn on its decision to block the 30-day suspension of Tory MP Owen Paterson from the House of Commons after he was found to have breached lobbying rules. 

They initially insisted that was part of wider reform of the standards system, with a committee being created to draw up new rules.

But that idea was humiliatingly dropped after Opposition parties boycotted it and the scale and anger became clear.  

A new vote on suspending Mr Paterson was due to be brought forward by the Government in the coming weeks. 

But his resignation from the Commons last night means that is no longer needed.  

Meanwhile, the handling of the row has inflamed tensions with opposition parties which means the floated ‘cross-party discussions’ may struggle to get off the ground.  

What did MPs vote for on Wednesday? 

Allies of Mr Paterson tabled an amendment to block his suspension from the House of Commons. 

The amendment was passed by 250 votes to 232 after Mr Johnson instructed Tory MPs to vote for it. 

The amendment proposed creating a new committee with a Tory majority to review the case of Mr Paterson and to make recommendations on the overhaul of the current standards process.   

How would the amendment have changed the standards rules? 

The new committee would have been tasked with looking at whether the standards system should give MPs ‘the same or similar rights as apply to those subject to investigations of alleged misconduct in other workplaces and professions’. 

That would include looking at things like the right to representation, examination of witnesses and the right of appeal. 

Who was Mr Paterson working for? 

Mr Paterson became a consultant to clinical diagnostics firm Randox – which sponsors the Grand National horse race – in August 2015, a year after he left Government after serving as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Environment under David Cameron.

He has carried out a similar role for Lynn’s Country Foods, a processor and distributor of meat products including ‘nitrite-free’ items, since December 2016.

Both firms are based in Northern Ireland and between them paid him more than £112,000 a year on top of his £80,000 annual MP salary.  

What is Mr Paterson said to have done? 

Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone found that he breached paragraph 11 of the 2015 MPs’ Code of Conduct that prohibits ‘paid advocacy’ – when he made three approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Randox and testing for antibiotics in milk in November 2016 and November 2017

Emails to the FSA read like marketing pitched on behalf of the firm, mentioning ‘Randox’s superior technology’ in helping identify problems. 

He went on to suggest that ‘once established the application of the technology could be discussed not just within the FSA but across the whole dairy industry,’ something from which the company stood to make large sums of money. 

The hardline Brexiteer broke the same rules by making seven approaches to the FSA for Lynn’s Country Foods in November 2017, January 2018 and July 2018 regarding a rival ‘global food producer (who) was acting in breach of EU law by mislabelling a product’.

And the same rules were breached in October 2016 and January 2017 when he made four approaches to ministers at the Department for International Development relating to Randox and blood testing technology.

Ms Stone also found that Mr Paterson had breached paragraph 13 of the 2015 MPs’ Code of Conduct, on declarations of interest, by failing to declare his interest as a paid consultant to Lynn’s Country Foods in four emails to officials at the FSA on 16 November 2016, 15 November 2017, 8 January 2018 and 17 January 2018.

Lastly, she found that Mr Paterson breached paragraph 15 of the 2015 MP’s Code of Conduct, on use of parliamentary facilities, by using his Westminster office on 16 occasions for business meetings with his paying clients between October 2016 and February 2020; and in sending two letters, on 13 October 2016 and 16 January 2017, relating to his business interests, on House of Commons headed notepaper. 

What punishment was recommended by the Commons Committee on Standards?

After receiving Ms Stone’s report the Commons Committee on Standards, made up of a cross-party group of MPs, recommended Mr Paterson serve a 30-day suspension that could trigger a recall petition in his seat. 

What does Mr Paterson say? 

Mr Paterson continues to deny any wrongdoing, saying he was acting on genuine concerns for public safety.

Ahead of the release of the investigation last week he made an astonishing attack on Ms Stone, claiming her ‘cruel’ probe in to his activities contributed to the death of his wife, Rose, who took her own life last year.

The 65-year-old North Shropshire MP believes the investigation against him was ‘biased’ and ‘an absolute denial of justice’. 

Why do Mr Paterson’s supporters think he has been wronged? 

Allies of Mr Paterson claim the standards investigation was ‘so amateurish it failed to interview witnesses’. 

They claim that he had 17 witnesses ready to give oral evidence on his behalf but complained they were never called. The Standards Committee however, pointed out that each of the 17 had supplied it with comprehensive written statements  and ‘did not see what further ‘relevant information could usefully be gleaned by inviting oral evidence from the witnesses concerned’.

Supporters believe the current standards system is flawed and must be overhauled to give MPs the ability to appeal.  

Former Brexit secretary David Davis said MPs currently have ‘no effective right of appeal’ because ‘this is a standards system where one person is chief investigator and prosecutor combined’.

Tory MPs want to replace the current standards system with a quasi-judicial process and a ‘proper’ appeal system. 

<!—->
Advertisement

In a round of interviews, Mr Zahawi said creating a system of appeal for suspended MPs should not have been conflated with the Paterson case.

He told Sky News: ‘The Prime Minister has always been very clear that paid lobbying is not allowed.

‘The mistake is the conflation of creating a fairer system with the right of appeal for Parliamentarians to be able to put forward an appeal process.

‘Conflating that with the particular case of Owen Paterson was a mistake and I think the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, came to the House yesterday, upon reflection yes it was a mistake, and I think it was right to come back very quickly to the House and say we need to separate these things out.

‘We should work on a cross-party basis to create a fairer system, I think that’s a good thing.

‘And my appeal to my fellow Parliamentarians from all parties is: let’s come together and create a better system with a right of appeal.’

He told BBC Radio 4 that the shambles should not cast doubt on the Mr Johnson’s judgment.

‘I think actually it says that the Prime Minister, when wanting to be following a process that makes the system fairer… wanted to do that,’ he said.

‘That is absolutely not true, and Kathryn Stone and her duties are the responsibility of the House of Commons, and the Speaker of the House.

‘And I think the important thing to remember is that Parliament as the legislative chamber of our country has absolutely the right to look at and improve the system…’

Mr Zahawi said the issue of the No11 flat had been looked at by Mr Johnson’s own ministerial standards adviser Lord Geidt ‘and the Prime Minister was found not to have broken any ministerial code’.

‘I think it was looked at by Lord Geidt, it’s a ministerial declaration and I think that’s the correct way of doing this. We have very good robust processes, we always want to improve them, but I think that’s the correct way of doing it,’ he said. 

Extraordinarily, Mr Zahawi admitted he had not read the standards report on Mr Paterson before the vote.

‘I actually haven’t read the report,’ he said.

Asked how he could have voted on the issue when he had not read the report, he said: ‘I’ve looked at the report, I haven’t gone into the detail.

‘Owen says that much of it is contested, right? I think something like 14 people have sent statements (saying) that it’s contested.’

Later, on Times Radio, he added: ‘So, my understanding is that there was something like 14 statements that have gone in that dispute, some of the evidence in the report, I haven’t read those statements.’

Mr Paterson has said the standards process neglected to take evidence from witnesses who would have supported his cause.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, the chairman of the Committee on Standards, said every MP had been emailed urging them to read the report.

‘I know ministers have a busy life, but I guess you’d hope that the Education Secretary would do his homework,’ he said.

He added: ‘What this really underlines is that it’s best if governments stick out of independent disciplinary processes.

‘I think it’s been a terrible week really for Parliament and an awful lot of reputations have been unnecessarily tarnished.’

Conservative Sir David Lidington, former leader of the House of Commons, said the farce had damaged politicians’ reputation.

‘Clearly, there was a pretty appalling set of misjudgments involved,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘The reputation of the House of Commons as an institution and MPs of all parties will have been damaged by the events of the last 24 hours.’

The former MP also said the affair has ‘weakened the Government’, making it harder for Boris Johnson to win support from backbench MPs on potentially unpopular measures in future.

‘If you ask your troops to march through the lobby on something like this, and which they don’t think is right, and then you U-turn on it, it’s going to be more difficult next time around,’ he said. 

Some sources suggested Downing Street is trying to throw Mr Spencer under the bus in order to absolve the PM of responsibility.

‘The chief [whip] only does as he is ordered,’ an ally of Mr Spencer told the Times, while another accused No10 of being ‘spineless’ and attempting to hide its own complicity in the plan. 

As the criticism continued to grow, one Cabinet minister said Mr Johnson should have made Mr Paterson ‘turn up and accept his punishment’ rather than put the full might of the Government machine behind him.

Another senior minister said: ‘This was completely avoidable. 

‘The problem with Boris is he packs his Cabinet with second-rate people, meaning there is no one to tell him he should take a different course.’ 

The minister added: ‘It all just looks like we’re back to the 1990s – MPs getting together to support their friends.’

Meanwhile, former chief whip Mark Harper declared: ‘This is one of the most unedifying episodes I have seen in my 16 years as an MP.’ 

One Tory said: ‘Obviousy there is anger at the PM, but there is a real feeling the Chief should be considering his position. 

‘He laid down a three-line whip, threatened people with having their funding removed, sacked someone and had to reinstate her – all for a stupid vote that had to be abandoned the next day.’ But No 10 yesterday insisted the PM retains ‘full confidence’ in Mr Spencer.

Former Cabinet minister Stephen Crabb said many MPs defending ‘very narrow’ majorities were furious at being ‘dragged into this whole sleaze agenda’.

In the wake of Wednesday night’s vote Mr Paterson had given an unrepentant interview in which he said he ‘wouldn’t hesitate’ to repeat his actions.

But last night, Mr Johnson said he was ‘very sad’ to be losing Mr Paterson, adding: ‘He has had a distinguished career, serving in two cabinet positions, and above all he has been a voice for freedom – for free markets and free trade and free societies – and he was an early and powerful champion of Brexit.’ 

Labour today moved to kill off rumours than an ‘anti-sleaze’ candidate could fight for Owen Paterson’s seat after a lobbying scandal forced his exit.

The former minister’s resignation as MP for North Shropshire was confirmed this morning as he became ‘Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead’ – the traditional way of quitting the Commons.  

Mr Paterson had a majority of nearly 23,000 in 2019, making it one of the safest seats in the country.  

Speculation had been swirling that Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens could unite behind a single candidate in an effort to overturn the huge margin.

The move would have echoed when Martin Bell, a former BBC war correspondent, challenged Tory incumbent Neil Hamilton for the Conservative stronghold of Tatton in Cheshire in 1997.

The broadcaster, who famously wore a white suit, won on an anti-sleaze ticket with a majority of more than 11,000 after other major parties agreed not to stand.

But a senior Labour source said today: ‘We’re standing.’

Another Labour insider told MailOnline that electoral laws made it ‘almost impossible’ to field a unity candidate.

‘An independent candidate couldn’t get donations or infrastructure from parties so they’d be up against the Tory machine with zero support,’ they said. 

Mr Paterson has held the North Shropshire constituency since 1997 and secured 62.7 per cent of the vote in 2019. 

Source: Daily Mail

Comments