Sharon Hodgson: 'This has been Tory sleaze and they will never learn'

It has been 31 years since John Major assumed control of the Conservative party but once again an old word has returned to haunt British politics, ‘Sleaze’.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 2:05 pm
Ex-Tory MP Owen Paterson was found guilty by the Independent Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards of lobbying officials and Ministers on behalf of the firms he was a paid consultant for.

At first, we believed it was limited to one case, Owen Paterson. When however, the Conservative party voted to disband the independent standards committee (set up in 1995 under Major) we knew that this issue went deeper.

Paterson was not alone. Former attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox has reportedly made over £6m in additional income outside of parliament. He has also been using pandemic-related proxy voting rules to vote from the Caribbean as well as renting out a property partly paid for over years past using taxpayer money while claiming another £22,000 a year on another flat.

Mark Fysh MP, working for a care insurance provider tried to change the law to introduce more cash incentives for insurance companies. Meanwhile, for just 30 days of work for various private companies, Andrew Mitchell earned over £180,000 per annum (£5,500 per day). The list goes on and on, including former and current Government ministers. So often this issue is portrayed in the media as a failure of Parliament or a failure of politicians in general. This is not the case, in all instances, this has been Tory sleaze alone. This is corruption.

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As well as forcing one of the Governments fastest U-turns on record, the Labour party has announced its “five-point plan to fix our politics”. Principally this would contain a ban on second jobs. There are however limited exceptions. We must not forget that, while Owen Paterson was successfully lobbying for Randox Health, Labour MP and NHS doctor Rosena Allin-Khan was serving on COVID-19 wards and in A&E.

Next, Labour would stop the revolving door between Government and the companies that ministers are supposed to regulate. Again, former Chancellor George Osborne walked straight out of Westminster and into a £650,000-a-year, one-day-a-week position, for BlackRock investment management corporation.

We must also shut down the Conservatives plans to allow non-UK residents to donate to political parties. The government must also close the loophole whereby Shell companies can hide the true source of donations. Labour would set up a new Office for Value for Money and reform of procurement. Finally, an Independent Integrity and Ethics Commission should also be set up alongside the current parliamentary standards process.

These should not be controversial reforms but if the Conservative’s sleaze and the recent squirming overnight when they realised their “mistake” has taught us anything, it is that the Tory’s will never learn.