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Furious Tory Rebels Condemn "Shambolic" Vote To Overturn MP Suspension And Rewrite Standards Rules

Furious Tory Rebels Condemn 'Shambolic' Vote To Overturn MP Suspension And Rewrite Standards Rules
4 min read

Tory rebels have expressed significant unease over their party voting in favour of reforming parliament’s standards watchdog as part of a wider effort to prevent Conservative MP Owen Paterson from facing a 30-day suspension from the Commons.

This afternoon MPs voted 250 – 232 in favour of reforming current standards procedures, ruling out Paterson's suspension over accusations of breaching lobbying regulations, which he disputes. 

Thirteen Conservative MPs rebelled, breaking a three line whip to vote against the amendment, they were: Aaron Bell, Kate Griffiths, Kevin Hollinrake, Holly Mumby-Croft, William Wrag, Jackie Doyle-Price, Mark Harper, Nigel Mills, Matthew Offord, Richard Fuller, Simon Hoare, Jill Mortimer and John Stevenson. 

An unprecedented 109 Conservative MPs abstained from the vote, although some, including cabinet ministers Rishi Sunak and Alok Sharma were absent from parliament to attend the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. 

One Tory rebel, who abstained from voting, told PoliticsHome: “The system is broken, but we shouldn’t be changing it because of one specific case and especially not at the eleventh hour.”

Another rebel told PoliticsHome they believed the standards committee system was in need of reform, but should not have been handled “in this shambolic manner”.

“The amendment conflated the Paterson inquiry and any desire for reform, which was wrong,” the MP told PoliticsHome.

“It gives the impression that MPs can change rules to help themselves. If rules do need changing then we should do it in an orderly way, not in this shambolic manner.”

One Tory MP worried the outcome of today's vote provided an easy opportunity for criticism from the opposition. "It’s another example of us being tone deaf and openly walking into a shit storm of sleaze and corruption allegations,” they said. 

Another rebel, who described themselves as a “friend and colleague” of Paterson, told PoliticsHome: “We are all acutely aware of the pain [Paterson] has been through following the death of his wife.

“I have no desire to see his career come to an end, but Number 10 and the whips had no business inserting themselves into this matter in the way they did. It was a bad judgement call and many of us did not want to be associated with it.”

A Tory MP who abstained from voting described the entire process and day to PoliticsHome as "a shitshow". 

Cries of "shame, shame" could be heard from the Commons benches as speaker Lindsay Hoyle read out the result. 

The Labour Party has confirmed it will boycott any new House of Commons standards committee, with deputy leader Angela Rayner describing the ordeal as having “brought shame on our democracy”.

“Today the Tories voted to give a green light to corruption,” Rayner said.

“Labour will not be taking any part in this sham process or any corrupt committee.

“The Prime Minister, Conservative Ministers and MPs have brought shame on our democracy.”

Writing in an article for The Guardian, Labour Leader Keir Starmer remarked: "That the Tories are yet again wallowing in sleaze comes as no surprise.

"From the pathetic attempts to defend Dominic Cummings when he breached lockdown to David Cameron’s rebirth as a super-lobbyist, this government has always chosen to lay down with the dogs.

"The blase manner in which it acts, the Trump-like attempts to fix the system to its own benefit, the complicity of those who justify and enable it, shows that it is now, inevitably, covered in fleas."

Some Tory MPs who support reforming the standards committee and voted in favour of Leadsom's amendment told PoliticsHome that privately they were nonetheless unsure about the vote's timing.

"The process needed reform, I just think the circumstances it has come about under obviously make it quite controversial," one Conservative MP staffer told PoliticsHome.

"But it's not like Paterson is going to be found innocent now as a result," they added. 

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