The public are fed up with an evasive Prime Minister believing himself to be above the rules
If favours have indeed been dished out by Boris Johnson, then that smacks of corruption. We need an immediate, independent and robust investigation into his dealings to restore transparency and accountability in government.
Last week I submitted a complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone, regarding Boris Johnson’s recent conduct.
Why bother? Because the scandals surrounding Boris Johnson raise suspicions of corruption right at the heart of government. Because we are still none the wiser over just who paid for the lavish redecoration of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat or who gifted him a luxury Caribbean holiday. Because the integrity of our Prime Minister is in doubt.
The hallmark of the Prime Minister’s responses to these scandals has been a total lack of openness, honesty, or transparency. When asked the most basic questions, Boris Johnson has sought to distract, evade and withhold the facts.
This is simply unacceptable behaviour from the most powerful politician in the land
Time and again the public and Parliament have been treated with disdain. This is simply unacceptable behaviour from the most powerful politician in the land. At the very minimum the Prime Minister of the day is expected to truthfully answer simple questions.
Just who paid the upfront costs of the redecoration of the Downing Street flat? Who gifted the Prime Minister a holiday to the Caribbean? How much did all this cost? And has anyone been repaid?
Refusal to answer these questions flies in the face of the Code of Conduct that every Member of Parliament signs up to upon election. This is not about party politics; this is about everyone elected to public office maintaining important standards in public life.
A truthful and transparent relationship between the Prime Minister and those tasked with holding them to account – whether Parliament, the press or the public – is a pillar of our democratic society. We abandon that at our peril.
And if our Prime Minister continues to operate in secrecy and believe the rules simply do not apply to him, then we are left asking just who is the Prime Minister beholden to?
The saying goes that there is no such thing as a free lunch. So it is only reasonable to assume that those splashing cash on our Prime Minister will expect a favour or two in return for their generosity.
Favours like privileged political access, appointments to a top job, influencing government policy, a peerage, special tax arrangements, or even winning public contracts at the taxpayers’ expense.
Perhaps unsurprisingly there are now reports that the Prime Minister may have sought private donations from senior Conservatives to pay for childcare and a personal trainer too.
What we know so far could be just the tip of the iceberg. There may well be a culture embedded in Downing Street where gifts to the Prime Minister are a valuable political currency.
If the Parliamentary Commissioner does launch an investigation following my complaint, then we can finally get to grips with what the Prime Minister has failed to declare and understand whether there has been any rule breaking.
If favours have indeed been dished out by Boris Johnson, then that smacks of corruption. He will need to both resign and face sanctions, maybe even prosecution if any laws have been broken.
And if there is nothing to hide, then at least we will have greater transparency and accountability at the top of government, rather than the current blizzard of secrecy and misdirection.
We must finally get to the bottom of these scandals. It has rumbled on for far too long. The public are simply fed up with an evasive Prime Minister believing himself to be above the rules.
We need an immediate, independent and robust investigation into the Prime Minister’s dealings. After all, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Margaret Hodge is the Labour MP for Barking.
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