U-turn on standards and lobbying shows sleaze can stick to this Prime Minister

The government was today accused of trying to attack the very tenets of our democracy after reversing their attempt to undermine the independent system to uphold standards in parliament yesterday.

A report from the independent Standards Commissioner found that former government minister and Tory backbencher Owen Paterson had committed an “egregious breach” of standards by repeatedly lobbying on behalf of two companies and receiving more than £100,000 for doing so. One of these companies later won a £133m coronavirus testing contract.

In response to the report, which was unanimously approved by the cross-party standards commission, the Prime Minister endorsed a move to undermine the parliamentary standards process by de-facto giving the Government final say on any findings by the Commissioner including in the case of Owen Paterson. 

The amendment passed the House of Commons yesterday but following a massive public, media and political backlash the government today announced that they intend to reverse the decision.

Naomi Smith, CEO of Best for Britain, said

“Today we saw the cracks in the Prime Minister’s teflon coating when, on this rare occasion, the sleaze that embodies this government stuck. 

“He was willing to attack the very tenets of our democracy to defend his friends’ wrongdoing and potentially save himself scrutiny on his many personal breaches of standards. They’ve whacked the car into reverse because they badly misjudged how dimly voters view their behaviour.

“Despite the welcome u-turn, this will not be the end of this government's attack on democracy, whose current legislative agenda will untether them from even the slightest form of accountability by parliament, by protest or at the polls”

Currently the government is pursuing: 

  • Changes to judicial review that could make it more difficult for people to challenge ministerial decisions
  • Changes to the Official Secrets Act that could make it a criminal offence for journalists to work with whistleblowers
  • A new policing bill that cracks down on the right to peaceful protest
  • An Elections Bill that gives the government unfair advantage in elections and gives them control of the independent Electoral Commission

Learn more about Best for Britain’s campaign against the government’s anti-democratic agenda here