By choosing to undertake a hospital visit in Hexham, a routine event that could have been easily rearranged when the debate was sanctioned last Thursday, and then refusing to offer any apology, the PM looked cowardly as he proved incapable of answering very basic questions about myriad sleaze scandals.
And his absence from Parliament – all the more convenient because Prime Minister’s Questions is not scheduled to be held this week – perpetuates the now widely-held view that his government is “politically corrupt”, the charge now levelled by former Tory premier Sir John Major.
Only the PM could have explained how Tory whips, presumably at his behest, surreptitiously tried to thwart the suspension of Mr Paterson – and undermine Parliament’s staff and procedures – by threatening to withdraw levelling up funds from the constituencies of potential rebels rather than leaving it to Stephen Barclay, one of the Cabinet’s most junior members, to face the full wrath of Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, and others.
This arrogance wasn’t just a contempt of Parliament as the Government tried to hijack the Paterson case to overhaul disciplinary protocols. It showed a contemptuous disregard for voters who do not expect investment in their towns to be left to the mercy of the chicanery and corruption of Parliament now witnessed with perturbing frequency.
As such, the Speaker is to be commended for pledging to pave the way for a more robust system of standards that is insulated still further from the partisan self-interest of Boris Johnson and those of his cohorts who play fast and lose with Britain’s democracy – a game that they must never be allowed to win.
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