A new week and new scandals. A glance at this weekend’s papers suggest that the allegations of sleaze – and even corruption – are going nowhere except the front pages. And it makes Boris Johnson’s appearance at this Wednesday’s liaison committee a must-watch – especially as it’s billed as focusing on propriety and ethics in government.
Latest scandals from the government
Topping the charts over the weekend appears to be Jacob Rees-Mogg after the Mail on Sunday’s suggestion the Cabinet minister and leader of the House may have broken rules by not declaring £6m in personal loans from his Cayman Islands-linked company. Apparently he needed £3m to do up his house, which tells you all you need to know about his priorities, but he has refused to say what he needed the other £3m for.
The Observer led on the Jennifer Arcuri story that her as-yet-unpublished diaries, seen by the paper, show Johnson offering to help Arcuri promote her tech company Innotech in return for sexual favours. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is now considering whether it needs to reopen its original investigation, according to the chair of the Greater London Authority oversight committee.
Labour can smell blood. Deputy leader Angela Rayner has written to the Greater London Authority’s monitoring officer to request that she refer Arcuri’s remarks to the IOPC. The party also wants Rees-Mogg investigated by parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Stone, according to a number of papers yesterday.
The Sunday Times, keen to get in on the act, reported that transport secretary Grant Shapps is using taxpayers’ money on lobbyists fighting the government’s own plans to build on private runways. Shapps, a flying fanatic, has set up a team to help airfields challenge developments and, according to the BBC, this is funded by the Department for Transport.
Shapps may indeed be flying by the seat of his pants by the end of the week if – as is reported today – he announces that the Eastern leg of HS2 is to be pulled. As long ago as May this year, Shapps told a Policy Exchange audience, “We are going to complete HS2 and include HS2 on the eastern leg to Leeds”. Close, but no cigar. No wonder trust in politicians is at an all-time low if they manage to renege on a key policy in just six months. Trains may be slow but the speed of government reversals continues apace.
Sleaze at the top
Politico (London Playbook) today gave a very useful update on all the current Tory sleaze scandals. It’s an impressive, and growing, list.
Geoffrey Cox leads the way for being the highest-paid MP (in a crowded field) when it emerged that he earned over a million pounds in one year doing work outside his role as an MP. It’s the fact that he spent three months on his second job away from his desk and his constituents (in the British Virgin Islands) that caused the ripples.
Adam Afriyie is facing bankruptcy proceedings. Daniel Kawczynski faces another standards probe for “actions causing significant damage to the reputation of the House” and may have breached the MPs’ code of conduct. Iain Duncan Smith has a £25,000-a-year second job advising a multimillion-pound hand-sanitiser company that has benefitted, according to the Guardian, from recommendations of a government taskforce chaired, by um, Iain Duncan Smith.
Politico has more:
“Mark Pawsey has spoken in parliament defending plastic producers while being paid by a plastic lobby group … Philip Dunne asked questions about increasing defense spending while taking money from an aerospace company … Alun Cairns got a job at a diagnostics firm weeks before it got a big government contract … Richard Fuller received £300,000 from a firm that invests in spy technology in China.”
Sleaze and corruption now appear to be endemic to the government
There’s some old stuff that just won’t go away, like wallpaper-gate, cash-for-honours, and Jennifer Acuri (again). And questions are being asked about the Aspinall Foundation where Carrie Johnson works, specifically around its “governance and financial management”.
All this before we even get onto the list of what has happened, and who has benefitted, from the awarding of contracts during the pandemic.
The most eye-catching has to be the £133m kits contract for Randox, the firm that employed disgraced-MP Owen Paterson as a consultant. But the scandal around procurement and the awarding of contracts has been rumbling on since the pandemic started. Politico has the list here, amounting to many millions of pounds of taxpayer money wasted on faulty/unused products while Tory friends and family pocketed the profits.
The mainstream media, together with the Labour Party, have got their teeth into every aspect of sleaze and corruption within this government. Mud sticks, and now they’ve started digging, more and more dirt is appearing. It is an irresistible and unstoppable force.
There’s been talk of party grandees pushing Johnson out, but he could put up some resistance to this. Let’s not forget that Carrie has her feet firmly under the No 10 table and that’s where she wants them to stay. So the prime minister may try, once again, to bluff his way out – perhaps he’ll even try ducking out of this week’s liaison committee. He has form on ducking, diving, weaving and hiding, after all.
The fact that Johnson used a keynote speech at COP26 to tell the world that the UK is not remotely corrupt, told the world that in fact we probably are.