The latest Conservative U-turn was desperately needed – but how did we end up here?

Editorial: The prime minister seems to have a particular blind spot on sleaze and appears to think the public neither notice nor care

Friday 05 November 2021 00:14
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<p>‘Everyone is a loser, including even the opposition parties, tainted by the general contempt for the political classes’ </p>

‘Everyone is a loser, including even the opposition parties, tainted by the general contempt for the political classes’

It is difficult to discern anything encouraging in the fate of Owen Paterson, the soon-to-be former MP for North Shropshire, let alone any cause for celebration.

He brought his political demise on himself through paid lobbying, but, given the tragedies in his personal life, his reputational ruin is a sorry spectacle. So, too, is the further damage that it has inflicted on the prestige of the House of Commons. What should have been a routine disciplinary action, with little in the way of wider ramifications, has been turned into a huge political scandal.

Politics, as Mr Paterson has remarked, can be a cruel world. He was, in the end, mere collateral damage from a political ploy that was doomed before it began, and one that may well have been designed to protect the next major figure to be investigated by the independent commissioner for standards, Kathryn Stone – the prime minister himself. A “reform” – which is to say, a weakening – of the standards, with, say, recourse to an appeal committee dominated by trusted Conservatives, would have been very convenient. Or it may simply have been that Boris Johnson felt sorry for Mr Paterson.

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