Ian Dunt Profile picture
3 Nov, 63 tweets, 8 min read
What we're seeing today is an attempt to kill the system of standards in public life. Nothing less.
PMQs starts on the Paterson issue. Johnson says "paid lobbying... is wrong". But then: "That is not the issue in this case. it is not."
This is already a completely unacceptable thing for the prime minister to have said. That is precisely what the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards found in her report and the cross-party Committee on Standards agreed with.
They concluded: "This is an egregious case of paid advocacy... He has repeatedly failed to perceive his conflict of interest and used his privileged position as an MP to secure benefits for two companies for whom he was a paid consultant... He brought the House into disrepute."
Johnson says it's about "whether a member of this House had a fair opportunity to make representations in this case" and whether "our procedures in this House allow for proper appeal".
Paterson did have the chance to make representations and did so repeatedly, in written submissions to the Commissioner and in oral testimony to the Committee.
The second point is a grotesque example of retrospective procedural change. They didn't get the outcome they want, so now they want to change the procedure in retrospect.
Debate on Paterson begins. The Speaker says MPs can criticse the standards process, but says they should not attack "officers of the House" - like Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone - who cannot defend themselves.
Stone has done her work diligently in this report. In return, Paterson has baselessly accused her of bias and is allies have reiterated that attack in the press.
Here's David Davis, for instance, saying she somehow has it in for Brexiters. dailymail.co.uk/debate/article…
Leader of the House Rees-Mogg says there's "concern" about the process. "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." Godlike hypocrisy for a man currently pushing for the retrospective neutralisation of a standards procedure.
Mogg says there is uncertainty over the whistleblower provisions in the Paterson case. In fact, the Commissioner and the Committee on Standards have both found that his whistleblower excuse was invalid.
Here is the relevant section of the Committee report publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5802/cmse…
Paterson watching nervously from the backbenches.
Mogg says there is no appeal process for standards. In fact, the committee is an appeals process, because it assesses the commissioner's response. Sometimes they overrule her, as they did over the prime minister's holiday. bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politi…
Mogg suggests that this appeal doesn't count because the House only considers the committee report. That does nothing to negate the fact that there is a two-step process with additional scrutiny.
Mogg then takes up Paterson's attack on the Commissioner's report that it did not interview witnesses. What he does not understand, or chooses to ignore, is that Paterson was found guilty by virtue of his contemporaneous emails.
You can get those witnesses to say whatever you like. They can state that Paterson speaks only with the voice of fucking angels. But the fact is we have the emails. And they demonstrate in black and white that he engaged in paid advocacy.
Village idiot Sammy Wilson gets up to say that there are exceptions in the rules. But - again, with feeling - the commissioner and the committee both found that Paterson's actions did not satisfy the requirements of the exception.
And Paterson's breach of the rules was so regular and persistent that if his behaviour did fit the exception it would mean the rules were redundant.
Michael Fabricant, Barbie reactionary, says: "Some 17 individuals have come forward saying they wish to give oral evidence and it was refused."
Chris Bryan, chair of the standards committee, gets up. "I want to make a very simple point. We reviewed and read all the witness statements. Nobody asked to make an oral statement. We considered all the witness statements and we published them."
Mogg desperately flails around. "There was this facility to set up an investigatory panel which was not used." He is spewing out Paterson's arguments one by one. The government entirely on the side of the MP found to have broken the rules.
The stink on this. You could smell it from the fucking space station.
Mogg says the case raises questions about that exception provision. This was basically a whistleblower protection. Paterson relied on this extensively.
In reality, he spent several meetings and emails pushing for companies he represented to do milk testing, tried to get competitor firms frozen out the market and complained when the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed issues notifications which affected them.
The idea this was all whistleblowing to raise the alarm about "a serious wrong or substantial injustice" - as per paragraph nine of chapter three of the Guide to the Rules - is for the birds.
Mogg then protests that the investigation took too long. In reality, there was only one lengthy delay caused by the Commissioner - between March and May 2020, due to the pandemic.
The inquiry was suspended on compassionate grounds following the death of Paterson's wife on 24 June 2020. The Commissioner agreed to Paterson's request for a further extension in January 2021, and then a further extension to the deadline for written evidence to 11 August 2021.
So if Mogg is concerned that the inquiry took a long time, he may wish to check the details of why that is the case.
Caroline Lucas, Green: "I wonder if he could explain why it's appropriate that this new committee has an in-built government majority."
Mogg: "Sometimes to do the right thing one has to accept a degree of opprobrium." He somehow manages to say it with a straight face.
Mogg: "The suicide of his wife is a greater punishment any that a House of Commons committee could inflict". Dear God, I can't believe this. The cynicism.
I've watched many parliamentary debates. I can't remember feeling quite so sick with indignation.
What you are seeing here is outright corruption. There is no other word for it that will do. And of course, it is promoted in the language of that which it kills: fairness, justice and political independence.
Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire gets up to respond.
"The leader of the House stands up in front of us every week. If he'd wanted a debate on changing the rules, on changing the system, he has that opportunity every single week. And I've yet to hear him say it, until today when we are considering a live case."
I can't get over that comment about his wife. Can't get over it at all. She was an actual person, not someone to be grubbily deployed in a dirty tricks campaign.
Debbonaire typically brilliant, taking down Mogg's arguments one by one. "For the public to maintain their trust in us it is crucial that our independent standards procedure is not undermined, or worse still systematically dismantled altogether."
"Standards are important. They matter. The commissioner and the committee took careful consideration of a very large amount of evidence and I strongly suspect there are some members who did not read it."
Honourable statement from Tory MP Peter Bottomley: "We chose the system we're now using. If we want to consider changing it, we should do it in a proper way. I don't regard this as appropriate now."
Pete Wishart, SNP, says his party won't serve on "any kangaroo court" for changing the rules.That;s interesting. Leadsom's proposals has one seat on it for the Scottish nationalists.
Bryant up again: "The charges are very serious. The member repeatedly over a sustained period lobbied officials and ministers on behalf of his paying clients, from whom he was receiving more than £9,000 a month, as he still is."
"When they couldn't get meetings with officials and ministers, he used his privileged position as a member of parliament to secure them."
"He repeatedly used his taxpayer funded parliamentary office for commercial meetings. This is paid lobbying. In some shape or form it has been banned since 1695 and expressly so since cash-for-questions which brought this House into terrible disrepute in the 1990s."
"One Conservative member described it to me as 'a catalogue of bad behaviour'."
This is absolutely devastating from Bryant. "He says he was raising serious wrongs but he did not say so at the time. If these were truly serious you might expect him to write articles or do interviews in the media, as he was perfectly entitled to do."
"He did not. He did the one thing he was banned from doing: lobbying ministers time and again in a way that conferred a direct benefit on his paying clients. That is expressly forbidden. it is a corrupt practice."
"He had prior notice of the charges and the evidence against him at every stage. He had legal advisers with him. ... We gave him every opportunity to make his case to us and the session has conducted respectfully and fairly."
"The fact he has repeatedly failed to perceive his conflict of interest.. is even more concerning. He has brought the House into disrepute."
Mogg looking utterly defeated by the remorseless logic of Bryant's argument. Not that it'll make any difference.
"Nobody can be above the rules. it is the public who should judge this. And I fear they will find us all wanting if the amendment is carried today. i warn colleagues with all my heart: Don't do something today which we will rue in the future."
Leadsom had a chance, after that, to not move her amendment. She didn't take it. MPs go to vote.
MP pass Leadsom amendment by 250 to 232.
Cries of "shame" in the Chamber. One MP shouts: "Look what you've done to this place."
Shame is the only word for what we've just witnessed. Corruption. Pure, simple, unarguable. No other word for it.
I guess if you want a silver lining that was a tighter margin than I imagined.
Yeah. Disgust. It's all I have. A government which always bangs on about how great Britain is actively dismantling that which one might rightly be proud of about it.
Motion as amended is passed 248 to 221. So that's it, it's happening.
Paterson will not be subject to the punishment outlined by an independent cross party committee, despite clear and repeated evidence of using his position for paid advocacy. A new committee will be established, which the Tories control, to stitch up the standards system.
It's a shameful, shameful day for parliament.
Labour should absolutely refuse to participate in that committee, as the SNP have done. Let it be seen for what it is.
COLUMN: The Owen Paterson vote is one of the starkest acts of government corruption in recent memory inews.co.uk/opinion/column…

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More from @IanDunt

4 Nov
Quite extraordinary to hear Mogg say that he "fears last night debate conflated the individual case with the general concern". It was a motion on Paterson. Mogg largely ignored it and focused all his attention on the amendment for stitching-up the standards system.
He now says they'll go and try to think up a cross-party way to do this - presumably creating a committee which does not have an in-built Tory majority. Good. But Paterson remains, saved from his punishment by the amendment Mogg himself backed and the govt whipped in support of.
Ah no - turns out they really are U-turning hard as fuck.
Read 4 tweets
4 Nov
Contemptible. Stone has done nothing wrong. She carried out an inquiry into an MP without fear or favour and rightly found her had broken the rules. And yet the government protects the corrupt MP and calls on the investigator to resign.
It's sickening. A downright moral decay.
Why go after Stone? Well, funny story there. You may remember a little trip to Mustique which Boris Johnson took in 2019. Kathryn Stone concluded he broke the rules because he hadn't "fulfilled conscientiously" requirements to register donations.
Read 5 tweets
28 Oct
I am so bored of these dreadful tiny people and their ceaseless gibbering. news.sky.com/story/brexit-u…
You bored us to tears with Brexit, you catastrophically fucked it up, you won an election promising to stop taking about it, and now here you are: still fucking talking about it. Except this time with the added comedy value of berating your own deal.
It's not ever going to stop is it. We'll all be 90 years old and these bleating mediocrities will still be banging on about Europe.
Read 4 tweets
24 Oct
Was really quite bowled over by Dune. It's stunning. One of the most visually arresting sci-fis I've ever seen. I loved getting lost in the pomp and treachery of it.
There is a problem though. It's not really a complete film. It feels like a (very long, very expensive) episode. So you leave feeling slightly frustrated. An odd mixture of over and under-whelmed.
You can't hold it against him, he's grappled with some really complex stuff and made a coherent story out of it. Not just coherant, but mind blowing. But if I'm honest, a part of me left thinking: this should probably be a TV series.
Read 5 tweets
20 Oct
It's hard to imagine a worse forum for political debate than Twitter.

This, incidentally, is partly why I stopped arguing with people on Twitter. You never get anywhere. It becomes this kind of grotesque nerd gladiatorial match in which pithy condemnation replaces logic or evidence.
You can 'win', quite easily, by making fire-and-brimstone condemnations and appealing to your tribe. But both of you always come out of it looking worse than you did before. No-one ever really wins.
Read 8 tweets
16 Oct
DC comics nerds - and I really mean hard core nerds here, ignore this if you aren't - I could use some help. I'm putting together a master list of DC history, including only good runs/stand-alones and major continuity events. If there anything really good that I'm missing? ImageImageImageImage
Last bit here. Going to sort a proper reading order later and break the runs down so they're vaguely in continuity. But this is all head-cannon. I'm not too worried that I'm taking bits from different continuities and smashing them together. Image
I wish I had more for the epilogue though. There must be more alternative endings around that I haven't heard of. And no, not Dark Knight Returns. It's too bleak to finish with.
Read 5 tweets

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