Inside Westminster

The Tories are known for ruthlessly ditching leaders – Boris Johnson will be looking over his shoulder

Only a month after seeming all-powerful at the Tory conference, Johnson’s standing among Tory MPs has sunk to its lowest level, writes Andrew Grice

Friday 12 November 2021 12:58
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<p>What lies behind the prime minister’s woeful handling of the Owen Paterson affair? </p>

What lies behind the prime minister’s woeful handling of the Owen Paterson affair?

“Boris doesn’t really believe anything except people like him should be left alone to do what they want,” one former Boris Johnson aide told me. Indeed, Johnson has reportedly earned more than £4m from his outside interests in the past 14 years.

Perhaps this helps to explain his woeful mishandling of the Owen Paterson affair and his reluctance to tighten the MPs’ code of conduct. On Monday, the Commons will formally overturn the ill-fated decision to change the system of investigating complaints against MPs to try to save Paterson’s skin. Johnson should use this opportunity to apologise for the fiasco and to support moves to restrict MPs’ second jobs – including a ban on acting as parliamentary consultants.

But he probably won’t. Cabinet ministers including Rishi Sunak, Steve Barclay and Nadhim Zahawi have been much more contrite than Johnson; it is not in his DNA to say sorry. This is compounding the damage to him and his party from a controversy that was his own making.

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