HENRY DEEDES on No10's embarrassing Tory sleaze u-turn

Mogg pinched his Prof Calculus specs against a blizzard of fury: HENRY DEEDES witnesses the morning after the catastrophe before

Mornings after are agonising affairs. The regret, the sorrow, that excruciating sense of ‘what on earth was I doing last night?’

There really is only one thing for it: Bow your head, neck a few aspirins and keep well below the radar.

There was a strong sense of that among Conservative MPs yesterday. Their catastrophic decision on Wednesday to block the suspension of Owen Paterson for breaching lobbying rules – only to see the whole thing overturned yesterday – was a misjudgment of gargantuan proportions.

The few who dared turn up to support Jacob Rees-Mogg at business questions sat lifeless, dejected, wallowing in shame and embarrassment. It was like the queue for the hotel breakfast buffet after a particularly Bacchanalian wedding.

Pinching his Professor Calculus spectacles against his nose, Rees-Mogg informed the House that the Government was U-turning on its plans to launch a new Tory-dominated anti-sleaze committee. Instead, he planned to seek cross-party consensus. Consensus? After this week? That should make Brexit look like a doddle.

Jacob Rees Mogg stood up in the almost empty House of Commons yesterday to announce the Government’s latest u-turn, this time abandoning plans to scrap the current parliamentary sleaze system and instead would seek cross party support for reforms

Mogg’s opposite number, Shadow Commons Leader Thangam Debbonaire, built herself into a blizzard of fury. She was loving every second, hopping about excitedly at the dispatch box. ‘Shameful!’ she bellowed.

Ms Debbonaire is something of a motor-mouth and, despite her clear estimation of her comic ability, is about funny as a funeral. So when she gets to dance her merry jig at the Government’s expense, they really have cocked up.

Chief Whip Mark Spencer certainly knew it. Slumped next to Mogg, his bloodhound chops drooped in doleful repose. If he wasn’t considering his position, he really should have been.

Up sprang Pete Wishart (SNP, Perth) spitting invective. ‘What a mess … Brown envelopes stuffed full of cash! … Kangaroo court!’ he barked. Mogg, languidly aloof as ever, paid him little attention.

No one from the Tory benches bothered to defend Paterson. We were well beyond that. Peter Bone (Con, Wellingborough) did, however, remain unrepentant about backing the Government the previous day. He had done so, he said, as a matter of conscience, and was too much of a loose cannon (and possibly too advanced in his career) to be told otherwise.

No one from the Tory benches bothered to defend Paterson, pictured here ahead of Wednesday’s vote on MP standards 

He expressed anger that his constituency office had been vandalised as a result. He reminded the House it had been nearly three weeks since the murder of Sir David Amess. Mr Bone’s plight found some sympathy with Standards Committee chairman Chris Bryant (Lab, Rhondda).

More from Henry Deedes for the Daily Mail…

He stressed the need for care when talking about standards in public life ‘as I have tried to’. ‘Hear, hear!’ honked La Debonnaire.

Bryant has become the moral arbiter in this saga. His devastating critique of Paterson on Wednesday did much to persuade Tories of the indefensible idiocy of their party’s position. Even so, Mogg couldn’t let this slightly sanctimonious comment slide.

While he welcomed Bryant’s desire to uphold high standards, Mogg wondered why he had earlier gone on the radio to compare the Government to Putin’s Russia. A little OTT, surely. Bryant did not care for this attempt to chip away at his newly minted halo. Fixing Mogg with an icy glare, he rasped: ‘You really are a disgrace.’

But then no one really emerges with any great credit from this saga, the honourable exception being Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. He has maintained an admirable neutrality – as he should of course.

Yet his voice yesterday was harsher, more fierce than usual. His irritation at the way Parliament has been treated, its ideal so sullied, was palpable.

Hours later, Paterson announced his departure. Sighs of relief from Tory HQ. No sooner had he began clearing his desk than former Labour MP Claudia Webbe was being handed a ten-week suspended sentence for threatening to throw acid on another woman. It’s a sewer Westminster, it really is.

Hours after Jacob Rees Mogg announced the government’s u-turn, Owen Paterson resigned from parliament 

Source: Read Full Article