The Tories reveal yet again their belief that the rules are for little people, not for them

As the Conservative party decided to self-immolate in sleaze last week, one of the most jaw-dropping aspects was the insistence from Owen Paterson and his supporters that the investigation which found he had “egregiously” breached lobbying rules “did not comply with natural justice”.

The idea he has been denied justice is laughable. The process for regulating the conduct of MPs has multiple safeguards to ensure fairness. Any investigation will be carried out by an independent standards commissioner. Na dit, a committee of MPs and lay members recommends whether any sanctions should be imposed, and finally MPs approve or reject those sanctions. Our system is widely regarded as an example of best practice across the world.

For purposes of political expediency and sheer mendacity, the Tories decided this system must be scrapped immediately, only to U-turn when their nefarious scheme backfired spectacularly.

It is uncontroversial that Paterson was in breach of the rules – he was handsomely remunerated by two companies and he approached public bodies and government departments on their behalf.

The witnesses whom he complains were not interviewed by the standards commissioner were overwhelmingly character witnesses and their testimonials did not require interrogation, so they were not interviewed. Nothing they could have said could have changed the facts. The investigation process he was subjected to was determined by parliamentarians – including him.

The obvious truth here is that Paterson wanted to dictate to the commissioner who would be heard, when and by what means. If you face criminal charges, try dictating the terms of trial to the judge in the same way.

He also claims he was not given a right to an appeal, yet in its report the committee clearly notes that: “A member is entitled to contest, even vigorously contest, the commissioner’s interpretation of the rules and her findings.”


He must have forgotten that he was invited to appeal against the commissioner’s findings both in writing and in person, and did so.
It’s a familiar pattern of behaviour from the Tories – whether it’s Dominic Cummings racing to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight or Matt Hancock putting his libido above lockdown – the rules are for little people, not for them.

It is no surprise that Tory MPs – including the two most senior law officers, the attorney and solicitor general – lined up to trash the rule of law and undermine our democracy. They also sought to threaten the standards commissioner with the sack for having the temerity to do her job. Kwasi Kwarteng’s attempt to bully Kathryn Stone out of her job was yet another breach of the ministerial code, and the latest example of the Tories’ slide into corruption and moral bankruptcy. Boris Johnson has had multiple run-ins with the standards commissioner. It is clear he simply wants revenge and impunity from the rule of law.

This level of flagrant norm-shattering and lawbreaking demands more than tut-tutting. That’s why we need the adviser on ministerial interests to launch an inquiry into Kwarteng’s threats. And it is why Labour has urged the standards commissioner to open an investigation into the prime minister over the financing of the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.

Egter, we know that such breaches mean little to the PM – from Priti Patel’s bullying aan Robert Jenrick’s liaisons with Richard Desmond and all the way through to rehiring Gavin Williamson, there is no outrage the PM is unwilling to excuse. How’s that for natural justice?

David Lammy is shadow justice secretary

Kategorie:

prem

Merkers:

, , , , , ,

Kommentaar gesluit.