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Minister Insists Tory Party Isn't 'Sleaze Ridden' As Second Jobs Row Rages On

2 min read

Conservative party chairman Oliver Dowden has rejected the claim that the government is "sleaze ridden" as MPs prepare to overturn the controversial amendment tabled by ministers that ignited the row over standards and second jobs.

Dowden told LBC "the government is not sleaze ridden" and is "actually focused on getting on with the job" after more than a week of corruption allegations that have seen the Conservatives overtaken by Labour in several polls as an apparent public backlash over sleaze emerges.

On Monday Dowden also sought to play down the fact that Boris Johnson has not yet apologised for the Owen Paterson saga, saying it was simply a matter of "semantics".

"The Prime Minister has said that we made mistakes and he regrets it, and that's effectively saying the same thing," he told Sky News' Kay Burley.

The government hopes to draw under a line under the saga today when MPs vote to unpick the highly-contentious amendment intended to overturn Paterson's 30-day suspension from the House of Commons for breaching lobbying rules by scrapping the existing MPs' standards body.

The amendment, first tabled by ex-Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom, infuriated dozens of Tory MPs and triggered widespread allegations of corruption. The government ditched the plan in a major U-turn and Paterson later announced his resignation as the MP for North Shropshire.

Johnson yesterday admitted that he mishandled the affair.

"I think things could certainly have been handled better, let me put it that way, by me," the Prime Minister said in a Downing Street press conference.

The Prime Minister and his party have taken a major hit in the opinion polls in the wake of the Paterson saga and subsequent revelations about MPs' second jobs.

Labour led the Tories by 6% in a Savanta ComRes poll for the Daily Mail on Friday.

However, Dowden suggested this morning that the public wasn't interested in ongoing sleaze allegations and instead wants ministers to focus on "the job at hand".

He told Sky News: "My sense both from the polls and conversations I have with people as party chairman is they want the government to be focused on getting on with the job." 

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