Labour's Lisa Nandy talks Conservative sleaze on Radio 4
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Earlier this month, the Prime Minister blocked the 30-day suspension of Tory MP Owen Paterson. Soon after, he U-turned on his plans, which also included a wider shake-up of the Commons’s standards watchdog, following an “intense blowback”.
The row has continued on, with Sir Keir Starmer tonight accusing the Government of acting in a “corrupt and contemptible” manner.
The Labour leader has been criticised by some on his side for taking so long to turn the row about Tory sleaze into an advantage for Labour.
But the BBC’s Political Editor, Laura Kuenssberg, said the Prime Minister has clearly been “rattled enough” to act anyway.
Writing on Twitter, Ms Kuenssberg said: “Johnson[’s] action shows the Government was rattled enough to realise it needed to act.”
The Prime Minister tonight published proposals to tighten up the Commons’s rules.
In a letter to the Speaker of the House, he said “it is imperative that we put beyond doubt the reputation of the House of Commons by ensuring the rules which apply to MPs are up to date, effective and appropriately rigorous”.
He proposed the introduction of new measures, including an update to the Code of Conduct for MPs and new rules for MPs banning them from working as paid political consultants or lobbyists.
He also suggested that “MPs who are prioritising outside interests over their constituents are investigated and appropriately punished”.
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The Prime Minister told the Speaker this would prevent MPs from “exploiting their positions”.
Ms Kuenssberg called the timing of this release – right before Sir Keir delivered his own proposals in a press conference – “brutal”.
Writing again on Twitter, she emphasised the blow received by the Tory party, noting what she called the “massive reverse ferret by Number 10” which is now arguing for rules to be tightened up.
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She said that Mr Johnson’s letter was published when it was for the “naked political advantage of trying to blunt Starmer’s attack today”.
Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg also today admitted that his party made “a mistake” defending Owen Paterson earlier this month.
The cross-party Standards Committee had found that Mr Paterson had committed an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules on behalf of two companies.
Labour believes that MPs should be banned from having second jobs, excluding a small list of positions, including “public service” roles.
Sir Keir told a press conference that Mr Johnson’s letter was a “significant victory for us”.
If the changes put forward by the Prime Minister were implemented, around 30 MPs would be affected, according to the BBC.
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