Thursday 4 November 2021

Can anyone honestly say that Politics isn't broken in the UK?

 In the Borough of Barnet we have three Conservative MP's. Two of them, Theresa Villiers and Mike Freer voted for the Leadsom amendment, which was introduced to get their colleague Owen Patterson off the hook for a standards breach. The Conservatives have a large majority, so even a small rebellion (including my own MP Matthew Offord from Hendon), failed to stop this outrageous attempt to subvert the standards process. Mike Freer sent this letter to constituents about the matter

Mr Paterson is not the only person to fall foul of the standards committee. If Mr Freer had been campaigning for a different process before one of his colleagues fell foul of it, his comments may be more credible, but this isn't what happened. 

Embarrassingly for Freer and Villiers, Boris Johnson realised that he had pulled the pin out of a hand grenade and swiftly tossed it over the wall and reversed government policy. Apparently Owen Paterson was not  even informed in advance of the change, finding out from a journalist in a supermarket, so all of the squeals about having compassion for him following the loss of his wife are completely hollow. If you become inconvenient to Boris, you will get thrown under a bus. 

Can anyone seriously believe that Boris Johnson is a man of principle or fit to lead the country after this? He completely misjudged how putting a three line whip on his MP's to get one of their own off the hook would look. Now he wants to proceed as if nothing untoward has happened. 

Mr Paterson claimed that the process was unfair, as he had no right of appeal and the stress had contributed to his wife taking her own life. Boris Johnson initially claimed that this was reason enough to tear up the process, in the process getting Mr Paterson off the hook. If he really believed that Mr Paterson had been under intolerable stress, surely he'd have at least phoned him to give him a heads up, so he wasn't embarrassed in the supermarket. 

I believe passionately that all MP's, Councillors etc should demonstrate the highest standards in public office. Whether Mr Paterson is right that the system is unfair or not, when he took the role as an MP, he agreed to abide by the rules. He has been an MP since 1997, he was a minister between 2010 and 2014, so presumably was at the heart of government. Did he have an issue with the Standards process before he fell foul of it?

And as for Ms Theresa Villers, who also voted for the Leadsom amendment. It doesn't surprise me at all that she wanted to see the process torpedoe'd. She fell foul of it earlier in the year. Rather interestingly, 24 MP's who have fallen foul of the process voted to scrap it. To me, this seems like a rather large conflict of interest. Without their votes, the Government would have lost. 

The only conclusion I can draw is that the Government of Boris Johnson is not fit for purpose, it is destroying the reputation of the UK for good governance. We are getting to the point where no one could reasonably say that UK politics isn't broken. 

I speak to many Conservative voters on a daily basis. They are generally hard working, law abiding people. I spoke to one who I know who was using my studios today. His comments were quite instructive. He is a resident in Finchley and he told me that he'd find it hard to vote for Mike Freer in future. He asked me what I thought of Matthew Offord taking a principled stand (knowing I'm not a fan of Offord). I said that although I personally would not support Offord, I thought he'd done himself a big favour. If nothing else his core voters know he has a few principles. Back in 2010 Offord beat Andrew Dismore by 103 votes. At the last election, he had a big majority, but the main reason for that, Jeremy Corbyn, has gone. If (and it's a big IF) Labour ever get their act together, his actions may just save him enough votes to scrape in again. I suspect that any dream Boris had of an early General Election may have disappeared yesterday. At the last election, the words Jeremy Corbyn came up on every doorstep. Mike Freer nearly lost his seat, only the Corbyn factor saved him from losing to Lib Dem Luciana Berger. Those two words will mean nothing next time. Voters will be under no illusion as to what Mr Freer's personal priorities are. As for Theresa Villiers, to me, her position is now completely untenable. If the Labour Party gets its act together, she will be in real trouble. 

One other interesting thing, with Sir Keir Starmer being sidelined through Covid, we saw Rachel Reeve dep for him opposing the Budget and Angela Rayner dep for him at PMQ's. By my reckoning both did an excellent job. It seemed to me that Boris really didn't like having to face a strong woman. His bluff and bluster doesn't work. I suspect that there are one or two Labour members who will have had the same thought. Whilst Starmer is  a clever bloke, he is to Charisma what I am to Opera singing (if you've heard me sing you will get it). There are interesting times ahead. 


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