Svetlana EkimenkoAll materialsWrite to the authorUK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had faced a Tory backlash after his U-turn on 4 November, when he abandoned plans to stop the suspension of Conservative lawmaker Owen Paterson from parliament; the MP had lobbied on behalf of companies that had paid him more than £500,000 ($682,882).Former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major has criticised the government of Boris Johnson for its handling of the Owen Paterson case as “shameful” and “un-conservative”.
"I have been a Conservative all my life. And if I am concerned at how the government is behaving, I suspect lots of other people are as well. It seems to me, as a lifelong Conservative, that much of what they are doing is un-Conservative in its behaviour," said Major on BBC's Radio 4's Today programme.
The UK government has been facing backlash after it attempted on 4 November to prevent the 30-day suspension imposed by Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone on Conservative lawmaker Paterson, who’d previously been found guilty of breaking Commons rules by lobbying for two firms that paid him £500,000. Tory MPs had narrowly won a 250 to 232 vote to annul his suspension for “breaching rules against paid advocacy”.
“There’s a general whiff of “we are the master’s now” about their behaviour and I think this is cutting through to the public… It has to stop, it has to stop soon,” said Major, as he weighed in on the sleaze row.Furthermore, the amendment tabled by Conservative backbencher Dame Andrea Leadsom had also mandated an overhaul of the standards system itself. Kwasi Kwarteng, the UK business secretary, told breakfast radio on Wednesday that it was “natural” for Stone to review whether she should continue in her post. “It’s difficult to see what the future of the commissioner is, given the fact that we’re reviewing the process, that we’re overturning and trying to reform this whole process… It’s up to the commissioner to decide her position,” said Kwarteng. However, after backlash from opposition MPs and some Tories, the next morning Downing Street reversed its decision on the suspension. Once he had lost Boris Johnson’s support, Paterson resigned as MP for North Shropshire, saying he sought a life outside “the cruel world of politics.”
FILE PHOTO: Owen Paterson is pictured outside the Cabinet Office in LondonJohn Major expressed his belief that the way the government handled the Paterson scandal was “shameful and wrong and unworthy of this or indeed any government.” “A number of Conservative MPs rebelled and very well done them. I wish more had had the courage to do so and I suspect they will in future because they were put in a dreadful position by the Prime Minister,” said Major. The former Prime Minister went on to deplore the fact that the current government had “broken the law, the prorogation of Parliament… They have broken treaties, I have in mind the Northern Ireland Protocol. They have broken their word on many occasions.”
According to Major, a relentless critic of Boris Johnson for some time, the PM’s administration was “politically corrupt” over its attempt to overhaul the standards system, which was “rather a bad mistake” but “isn’t a mistake on its own.”
John Major, and his wife Norma, posing with the Littlewoods Cup during the 1997 election campaign John Major relived his own Conservative government’s failure back in the 1990s, marred by allegations of sleaze and a cash-for-questions scandal, when MPs were offered money in exchange for asking parliamentary questions. Characterising those events as “immensely damaging” and “embarrassing”, John Major said: “When that happened I set up the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life to stop it, which has been a huge success. The striking difference is this: in the 1990s I set up a committee to tackle this sort of behaviour. Over the last few days we have seen today’s government trying to defend this sort of behaviour.”