Boris Johnson sleazy crisis deepens amid pressure on Covid agreements | Preservatives

The Tories’ sleaze feud reached new heights on Saturday night as MPs demanded details of any Owen Paterson lobbying government ministers on behalf of a company that has won nearly £ 500million contracts related to Covid-19 last year.

The crisis facing Boris Johnson has also worsened after former Tory Prime Minister Sir John Major called his successor’s attempts to block Paterson’s suspension from parliament last week for allegedly “shameful”. violates the rules of paid advocacy.

A new Opinium poll for the Observer shows that Johnson and his party’s ratings have fallen dramatically since last weekend, with the Prime Minister’s personal approval numbers reaching an all-time low.

While Tory MPs are already worried their party will regain its reputation for financial impropriety after last week’s chaotic events involving Paterson, all major opposition parties have stepped up the pressure.

Labor, SNP, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have all focused on awarding contracts in the event of a pandemic, demanding inquiries from Cabinet Secretary Simon Case or Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone , on Paterson’s contacts with ministers during the pandemic.

Paterson, who announced his resignation as an MP last week, was paid more than £ 8,000 a month for 16 hours of consultancy work by Randox Laboratories, until he resigned his post on Friday. Randox last year won two Covid test contracts worth almost £ 480million without normal competition. Government officials cited the urgency of the pandemic as a reason for not advertising the contracts.

The company insists Paterson “played no role in securing a Randox contract” but on April 9 last year the MP had a phone meeting with the company and Lord Bethell, then Minister of Health, about Covid tests.

On Saturday, Deputy Labor chief Angela Rayner said she had written to Case demanding “release of all correspondence and details of all meetings between ministers and the companies that were paying Mr Paterson to lobby on their behalf “.

Angela Rayner: “It is particularly cheeky that Randox has received £ 347million in taxpayer money.” Photograph: British Parliament / Jessica Taylor / PA

The Observer learned that before Paterson stepped down as an MP on Thursday, Tory whips understood that Stone was seriously considering launching an investigation into the lobbying of the former Northern Ireland secretary to ministers since start of the pandemic. She is also believed to be considering an investigation into the controversy over the Prime Minister’s renovation of her Downing Street apartment.

Over the next few days, the opposition parties are determined to step up the pressure. Rayner said: ‘It is particularly cheeky that Randox received £ 347million in taxpayer money after already failing to honor a previous contract which resulted in the recall of 750,000 unsafe test kits and care homes without regular testing. Ministers are to explain how they will recover taxpayer money that has been wasted on duff PPE and failed test contracts. “

SNP chief Ian Blackford said he had also written to the cabinet secretary demanding “full transparency on Paterson’s lobbying, especially regarding Covid-19 contracts involving huge sums of money”, while Lib Dem chief whip Wendy Chamberlain called for “a full and thorough investigation by the Standards Commissioner” into the links between Paterson, Randox and former health secretary Matt Hancock.

The Lib Dems secured a three-hour debate on Monday on the issue in which how the Covid contracts were awarded will be central.

The latest Opinium poll suggests the sordid feuds are hitting the Conservatives. The Tories’ lead fell to just one point, from five points a week ago, while Johnson’s personal score fell to -20 from -16 last week, breaking a previous low of -18 recorded a week ago. at one month.

There was also a significant shift in views on who would make the best prime minister. An 11-point lead for Johnson last week fell to just two points. Johnson is seen as the best candidate by 28% of voters, down from five, with Labor leader Keir Starmer at 26%, up four.

Sir John Major
Sir John Major: “The government, with its overwhelming majority, tends to treat Parliament with contempt. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski / PA

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Major criticized Johnson’s government, the damage it was doing to the UK’s reputation and the way it was treating Parliament. Referring to the efforts to block Paterson’s suspension, Major said, “I think the way the government handled this was shameful, bad and unworthy of this government or any other government. It has also had the effect of damaging the reputation of Parliament. “

He added, “There is a general ‘we’re the masters now’ puff about their behavior. I am afraid that the government, with its overwhelming majority, tends to despise Parliament. And if it continues, it will end badly.

Write in the Observer, Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy is also lashing out at the Business Secretary for his suggestions last week that Stone should consider his position because of the way she conducted her investigation into Paterson’s lobbying activities before February of last year.

“Kwasi Kwarteng’s attempt to intimidate Kathryn Stone from her post was yet another breach of ministerial code, and the latest example of the Conservatives’ slide into corruption and moral bankruptcy. Boris Johnson has already had several run-ins with the Standards Commissioner. It is clear that he just wants revenge and impunity for the rule of law, ”he wrote.

“This level of flagrant violation of standards and proud breaking the law demands more than tut-tutting. That’s why we need the Ministerial Interest Advisor to launch an investigation into Mr. Kwarteng’s threats. And that is why Labor has urged the Standards Commissioner to open an investigation into the Prime Minister regarding funding for the renovation of his Downing Street apartment.

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Edward L. Robinett

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