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Boris Johnson Accused Of "Skulking" Away From COP26 After Defending Corruption Allegations

3 min read

Shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband accused Boris Johnson of a "dereliction of duty" as the COP26 talks enter their final days, after the Prime Minister made a whistlestop visit to Glasgow on Wednesday.

Speaking to PoliticsHome, Miliband said the rather than "showcase" the UK, Johnson had been forced to talk about corruption because of "his actions, and the actions of his government".

"COP26 was supposed to be a chance to showcase Britain to the world and show leadership on the climate crisis," he said. 

"Instead the Prime Minister has stood on the world stage and been forced to insist that Britain isn't a corrupt country because of his actions, and the actions of his government."

Johnson held a press conference in front of the world's media on Wednesday, which was dominated by questions about Tory sleaze following revelations about former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox's lucrative legal work in the Caribbean.

Johnson, who urged countries still involved in negotiations on the final deal to "just get on and do it", was forced to defend his government, insisting the UK was "not remotely a corrupt country".

"We have a very, very tough system of parliamentary democracy and scrutiny, not least by the media," he added.

"I think what you have got is cases where, sadly, MPs have broken the rules in the past, and may be guilty of breaking the rules today. What I want to see is them facing appropriate sanctions."Miliband added that Johnson had "skulked away" from that final days of the climate summit "rather than stay in Glasgow to hammer out a vital deal with keeps 1.5 degrees Celsius alive and provides a pathway out of this summit with a mandate for further crucial emissions reductions at the next COP in 2022".

Former shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner, who was attending the conference on Thursday, said Boris Johnson being forced to defend some "stupid bugger" was "miniscule" in comparison to the importance of the talks.

"I don't even want to talk about it," he told PoliticsHome.

"Not because it's not an important issue domestically, but every time we insert that into our discussion around COP – where we are literally talking about the future survival of humanity on this planet – we are putting it equally with talk about some stupid bugger who's done some stupid thing and he deserves to be punished for it. 

"It's minuscule by comparison, so I don't want to go into it. It dignifies it too much."

Pressure is growing on negotiators to keep the 2015 Paris climate agreement intact which will limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius after a major report said even if countries met their current targets, the world would be on track for 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2100.

One Tory backbencher added: "We know we've got to do better than we've done in the last few weeks, and it was embarassing to see [Johnson] having to say the UK was not corrupt with all the world's media watching. 

"But it is imperative we keep the focus on COP for the next few days. There is a big job to do in Glasgow, and that should be where the focus is."

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