Boris Johnson’s corruption of public standards must end – Rachel Reeves

ANYONE living in overcrowded housing or trapped in an unsellable flat with potential lethal cladding will have scant sympathy with Boris Johnson and his woes over the “gold” wallpaper in his Downing Street apartment.

Boris Johnson still has serious questions to answer over sleaze, writes Rachel Reeves MP.

Many in our region will have lost their jobs due to the impact of the pandemic or may be mourning the loss of loved ones.

They want to see the Government working tirelessly to rebuild our Covid-hit economy, tackling the backlog of operations in our NHS, and rising crime levels.

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Instead, the Prime Minister is running around trying to deal with the growing list of scandals and sleaze allegations engulfing him and his Government.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to a John Lewis department store as inquiries into the cost of Boris Johnson's home furnishings escalate.

There are huge questions – now the subject of an official investigation – over the revamp of his Downing Street flat and who paid for up to £200,000 for this luxury refurbishment.

This matters because we need to know who is funding his lavish lifestyle, and what special favours may have been awarded for such a huge donation.

There is the ongoing inquiry into Johnson’s 10-day break to Mustique, following questions from Labour over how that trip was funded.

Then, there are the PM’s reported stomach-churning comments about how he would “let the bodies pile high” and let coronavirus “rip” rather than following scientific advice.

Leeds West MP Rachael Reeves is a senior member of the Shadow Cabinet.

His alleged remarks are an appalling insult. These are not bodies. They are family members and loved ones, and they are sadly missed.

His comments give us all the more reason for a full public inquiry into the Government’s botched handling of the pandemic, as soon as we reach the end of the roadmap.

When the Prime Minister was popping out of meetings in February last year, presumably distracted with the invoices for the redecoration of his flat, he should have been focusing on closing our borders against the virus, and getting our country prepared for a virus spreading across Europe.

All this comes on top of the appalling cronyism of the Government over Covid contracts – like the one handed to Matt Hancock’s pub landlord after a simple WhatsApp message – that I have written about here before and am continuing to demand answers on.

When it comes to whether the PM borrowed money to help pay for the revamp of his Downing Street flat, there are clear questions over whether he broke the law – something that is now being probed by the watchdogs at the Electoral Commission. It believes there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect an offence or offences might have been committed.

The many unanswered questions include who lent Johnson the money, were rules broken in his failure to declare the loan and what might have been given or promised to the donor.

It is any wonder the Government has continued to stall over my calls for the publication of the long overdue Register of Ministerial Interests.

And worse yet, there’s no control over this free-for-all because the official in charge of ministerial standards isn’t given the powers he needs.

The Prime Minister has finally filled the post for Independent Adviser for Ministerial Interests after five months with Lord Geidt.

But he is now ignoring serious calls from Labour and the Chair of the Committee into Standards in Public Life to give Geidt proper powers to trigger his own investigations into scandals such as those swirling around the PM.

Yet more evidence of the PM and his Ministers marking their own homework and dodging accountability and scrutiny.

Johnson at the heart of a moral vacuum in Downing Street and, as I said in Parliament this week, he is corrupting standards in public life.

The latest scandals follow the allegations surrounding David Cameron and his text messages to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, and other ministers asking for loans to support Greensill Capital – another scandal where I’m seeking urgent answers from the Government.

This raft of allegations culminated at Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday when Keir Starmer branded Johnson “Major Sleaze” for his role at the head of a Government “mired in sleaze, cronyism and scandal”, just as the Electoral Commission announced its inquiry.

All this is incredibly serious and profoundly depressing at a time when the Government’s focus should be using the successful rollout of the vaccine as a springboard to build an economic recovery, support our NHS and tackle crime.

However, we know there is more to come.

Following his suggestion that Johnson might have broken the law over the flat renovations, Dominic Cummings will appear before MPs on May 26 when he will doubtless have more to say about his old boss.

Some leaders grow into their jobs. However, this Prime Minister’s behaviour has revealed how much he lacks when it comes to conduct in public office, decency and good character.

This Conservative government sees the public finances as nothing but a giant cash machine for them, their friends and donors.

People need a Prime Minister they can trust. We want a PM who can give the focus we need to the pandemic, clearing the backlog of NHS operations and cutting crime.

We do not want someone worrying about who is paying for his wallpaper or foreign holidays – all of which 
should be possible on his £161,000 salary.

Labour will clear up Tory sleaze and concentrate on the issues that matter to families and communities across Yorkshire and Britain.

Our country deserves better 
than Johnson and his rotten government.

* Rachel Reeves is Labour MP for Leeds West and a senior member of the Shadow Cabinet.

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