Starmer labels Paterson sleaze scandal as 'government corruption'

8 November 2021, 17:19 | Updated: 8 November 2021, 19:59

Keir Starmer has hit out at Boris Johnson over the Paterson 'sleaze' scandal
Keir Starmer has hit out at Boris Johnson over the Paterson 'sleaze' scandal. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has labelled the Owen Paterson sleaze scandal as "corruption" during a debate in the House of Commons.

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The emergency debate was called in the wake of the Owen Paterson row, which saw the Conservative quit after outrage at his breach of lobbying rules.

Speaking today, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the U-turn was not a "tactical mistake" but instead the Prime Minister's pattern of "doing business".

Addressing the Commons, he said: "When the Prime Minister’s advisor of ministerial code found against the Home Secretary, the Prime Minister kept the Home Secretary and forced out the advisor.

"When the electoral commission investigated the Conservative party the Prime Minister threatened to shut it down.

"And when the commissioner for standards looked into the Prime Minister’s donations, the Prime Minister tried to take her down.

"Government corruption - there is no other word for it."

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Sir Keir said Mr Johnson seeks to "devalue the rules so they don't matter to anyone any more and to go after those charged with enforcing the rules, so that breaking the rules has less consequence".

"That way, politics becomes contaminated, cynicism replaces confidence and trust, the taunt that 'politicians are all in it for themselves' becomes accepted wisdom, and with that the Prime Minister hopes to drag us all into the gutter with him."

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He added: "When the Prime Minister gives the green light to corruption, he corrodes that trust.

"When he says the rules to stop vested interests don't apply to his friends, he corrodes that trust and when he deliberately undermines those charged with stopping corruption he corrodes that trust.

"And that is exactly what the Prime Minister did last week."

Mr Johnson visited a hospital in the North East today instead of attending the debate, with Jacob Rees-Mogg leading the job of representing the Government.

Asked if he would apologise to his party and the public about the saga, Mr Johnson said MPs have "got to make sure... that we take all this very, very seriously and that we get it right".

The Commons debate is expected to last three hours, despite ministers seeking to dismiss the row as a "storm in a teacup".