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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Owen Paterson Resigns As MP After Paid Lobbying Scandal

3 min read

Conservative MP Owen Paterson has resigned over his role in a paid lobbying scandal, following a tumultuous 24 hours in which the government made a botched attempt to re-write standards rules.

On Thursday Paterson said he was stepping down as the MP for North Shropshire so he could "remain a public servant but outside the cruel world of politics."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "very sad" to see Paterson quit the House of Commons, describing him as a "friend and colleague of mine for decades."

Yesterday the prospect of Paterson being suspended from Parliament for 30 days for breaching parliamentary standards was overturned when the government passed a controversial amendment designed to ditch the independent watchdog responsible for regulating them. 

However, the move triggered an angry backlash from dozens of Tory MPs and led to widespread allegations of corruption, leading the government to scrap the plan on Friday in a major U-turn.

Paterson was blindsided by the U-turn, finding out that the government had abandoned its plan to stop him being suspended while in a supermarket, according to the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards last week concluded that Paterson breached lobbying rules multiple times by approaching the government on behalf of the two companies.

He denies any wrongdoing, saying in his resignation statement he is "totally innocent of what I have been accused of." On Wednesday he said he would act in the same way without hesitation.

In his statement, Paterson said the last few days had been "intolerable" for his family and that his integrity had "been repeatedly and publicly questioned."

He accused other MPs of mocking the recent death of his wife, whose suicide he said was contributed to by how the probe into his conduct had been carried out.

"I have today, after consultation with my family, and with much sadness decided to resign as the MP for North Shropshire," the former Cabinet minister said.

"The last two years have been an indescribable nightmare for my family and me.

He added: "This is a painful decision but I believe the right one. 

"I have loved being the MP for North Shropshire and have considered it a privilege to have been elected to serve my constituents for 24 years."

Paterson's resignation means there will be a by-election in the constituency of North Shropshire, where the Conservatives currently have a comfortable majority of around 23,000.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said Boris Johnson should "apologise to the entire country for the grubby attempt to cover up for the misdemeanour of his friend."

He said: "This isn't the first time he's done this but it must be the last.

"And Boris Johnson must explain how he intends to fix the immense harm he has done to confidence in the probity of him and his MPs.”

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