To most on the left and centre of British politics it is clear that Mr Johnson cannot possibly last for long as prime minister: his "luck" is bound to run out eventually. Personally I believed that by the autumn of this year the Tories would have ditched him.
But no, in spite of having mishandled the pandemic, trashed Britain's international reputation, kept scant regard to truth and decency in his on personal behaviour, squandered billions of our money on irregularly arranged contracts for friends and Tory donors, his government remains ahead in the polls and the Tory MPs are happy to hang on to their "winner."
However, it is often the "small" things that bring autocrats down. The system of scrutiny of MP's behaviour was set up after the "expenses scandal" of the 1990s. It is possible that it needs some revision but has remained in place, and its recommendations and decisions honoured, for over 20 years. Until now.
Troy former minister Owen Paterson, in addition to his normal "job" as an MP,lobbied on behalf of two private firms, Randox and Lynn's Country Foods. The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, Kathryn Stone, found he had abused his position as an MP on 14 points. The cross-party Standards Committee, which contained Tory MPs, confirmed her findings and recommended that Mr Paterson be "punished" by suspension from the Commons for 30 days. The Commons itself has the final say. Normally such recommendations go through" on the nod."
Not this time. A group of 59 Tory MPs signed a motion that the suspension be not upheld. Six of them had themselves been reprimanded by the system in the past 12 months. Some of them had similar "second jobs" worth more than £1m a year in total. That's in addition to their parliamentary salaries of £81 930 + expenses. The government ordered Tory MPs to support them, and most did.
. Not only is Mr Paterson "off the hook," for the time being at any rate, but with government support the entire system is to be scrapped and replaced by one designed by the Tories.
The rules for "us" are that, if we break them, we scrap them and devise some more.
What I think could stick in the public's "craw" is that Paterson was paid £10 000 a year for his lobbying on behalf of Randox. A "normal person" on the average wage has to work 30 hours a week for over three years to earn that. For his extra little job on behalf of Lynn's Country foods he received another £12 000, twelve times the value of the £20 a week cut in Universal Credit.
To most of us "in the street" the proposed limitations on the right to judicial review are a bit outside our normal experience.
But we understand this. It could be the "tipping point." Let's hope so.
P.S. Posted 3.05pm. According to the lunchtime news the government agrees with the above and has withdrawn the proposals. Well done, them but I suspect the mud will still stick, as it deserves to do.
P.P.S. Posted 5.28, According to the 5 O'clock news Mr Paterson has now thrown in the towel and resigned from parliament. So we get a by-election in his constituency. They cost the public funds about a quarter of a million. He should be made to pay for it.
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