A U-turn was inevitable – Jacob Rees-Mogg just elegantly blundered into a self-made trap

When the opposition parties decided to boycott the bogus reform of the standards watchdog, it was difficult to know how the government could extricate itself from the dilemma, writes Sean O’Grady

Thursday 04 November 2021 11:49
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<p>Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg</p>

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg

Leaving aside all the rights and wrongs of the case of Owen Paterson’s lobbying, we now know that parliament can’t run itself. Not a shock, but still a disappointment. Evidently, it can’t regulate itself and won’t discipline itself. In fact, it can’t even make its mind up. When the opposition parties decided to boycott the bogus reform of the standards watchdog, it was difficult to know how the government – for it is their mess and not, say, the speaker’s – could extricate itself from the dilemma. A U-turn was inevitable. It takes a special gift to be this venal and this incompetent.

The idea of a new committee to reform the old committee to get Paterson off the hook wasn’t thought through (not surprising, seeing as it was the brainchild of Andrea Leadsom). It could only have worked with opposition co-operation. Usually, that’s all stitched-up before a vote. Not this time. Jacob Rees-Mogg just elegantly blundered into a self-made trap.

The damage is done, anyway. As things stand, the Commons looks more than ever like a corrupt Tory club, the inhabitants “in it for themselves”, living down to the public’s worst expectations of the political classes. As Chris Bryant, chairman of the Committee on Standards and Privileges says, it’s the kind of thing that happens in Russia.

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