Boris Johnson’s government in fresh swirl of murk and sleaze accusations

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On Wednesday night time, Johnson’s lawmakers had been whipped to vote in favor of overturning the suspension of a fellow Conservative Member of Parliament.

Owen Paterson, an influential Conservative backbencher and former cupboard minister, was dealing with a 30-day suspension after being accused of an “egregious” breach of lobbying guidelines.

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Paterson despatched a number of emails to government officers on behalf of two corporations that between them paid him a wage of £100,000 ($136,000) as a guide. Paterson claims he was elevating issues in regards to the high quality of milk and pork; Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary requirements commissioner, disagrees.

On Wednesday, Paterson persuaded Johnson’s government to again an modification that might overrule his suspension and as an alternative refer the case to a newly set-up parliamentary committee of MPs chaired by one of his Conservative colleagues, John Whittingdale.

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British broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough, center, sits next to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

The backlash was so extreme the government appeared to make a U-turn on Thursday morning, indicating the proposals to overrule the suspension on Paterson wouldn’t go forward.

A Downing Street spokesperson mentioned in an announcement: “There must be tough and robust checks against lobbying for profit. There must be a proper process to scrutinise and — if necessary — discipline those who do not follow the rules.”

On Thursday afternoon, Paterson introduced he would stand down as a Member of Parliament, saying: “The last two years have been an indescribable nightmare for my family and me.

“I preserve that I’m completely harmless of what I’ve been accused of and I acted always in the pursuits of public well being and security.”

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Adding to an already bad look, Johnson left the COP26 summit in Glasgow on Wednesday before the vote, flying back to London from Scotland, voted on the amendment to protect Paterson, then, sources have confirmed to CNN, attended a private dinner at a men’s-only club with former colleagues at the Conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph newspaper. He is now facing criticism for leaving the climate talks that he is hosting, and by private plane.
The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, has called the reversal and attempts to set up a new committee “outright corruption.” Writing in the Guardian newspaper, he says “the rot begins on the high. We have a chief minister whose title is synonymous with sleaze, dodgy offers and hypocrisy.”

Downing Street has yet to respond to Starmer’s criticism.

It’s true that Johnson and his government are facing accusations of sleaze on many fronts. There is, for instance, an ongoing investigation into precisely how Johnson funded a refurbishment of his flat in Downing Street.

Prime ministers are given £30,000 ($41,000) of public money a year to renovate their official residence during their term, but Johnson’s reportedly cost £200,000 ($280,000). He has been accused of trying to get Conservative donors to pay for the work, plans that his former adviser Dominic Cummings called “unethical, silly, (and) presumably unlawful.” Johnson has denied any wrongdoing.

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Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie attend a reception at The Eden Project during the G7 summit on June 11, 2021 in Cornwall, England.
Johnson faced harsh criticism when he was photographed painting in a luxury villa on holiday on the same day a report critical of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic was released.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the British government has also been accused of handing lucrative contracts to people with connections to the Conservative Party. Transparency International UK, a respected campaign group, reported that one in five of the contracts awarded to private companies raised one or more red flags. They single out the government’s “excessive precedence” or “VIP” lane that was shrouded in mystery and effectively eliminated competition for public money. The government has repeatedly maintained that a fair and proper process was carried out.

Johnson also stands accused of trying to get a Conservative-friendly, right-wing former newspaper editor, Paul Dacre, the top job at Britain’s media regulator, Ofcom.

Boris Johnson walks off stage after speaking at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow on November 1.

The government has appointed a lobbyist with very close links to the Conservative Party as the senior external interviewer for the job, which has been seen as an attempt to smooth the way for Dacre.

On top of all these problems, Johnson’s private life has also not been without scandal in recent years. He has been accused of having an affair with someone who was receiving public money while he was Mayor of London, which he denies, and for some time refused to disclose precisely how many children he has fathered.

Frustratingly for the opposition Labour Party, these scandals don’t necessarily translate to public condemnation of the government. While Starmer is right in his claim that, for some, Johnson’s name is synonymous with sleaze, other voters have baked a certain amount of scandal into this prime minister.

“It’s not prefer it’s information to anybody that Boris Johnson is a person who performs quick and unfastened with the foundations. This is just not a side of his persona he has sought to cover in his lengthy profession in the general public eye,” says Rob Ford, professor of politics at the University of Manchester. He points out that while Johnson’s poll numbers have been falling, “that is unlikely to be sleaze associated, more the shine coming off from vaccines. But on the primary numbers he is nonetheless forward sufficient to win an election.”

However, whereas this is not hurting Johnson proper now, sleaze, Ford notes, does have a behavior of build up over time.

“It could affect him though. Sleaze is more like a corrosive fog than an immediate problem. It could build up. A lot of the voters he won over by backing Brexit were inherently distrustful of politicians in the first place, so there could come a time where it suddenly hurts him badly.”

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