It has been an extraordinary week in Westminster.
The Commissioner for Standards found that Owen Paterson the North Shropshire MP had broken the rules after he lobbied Ministers on behalf of Randox a company he was paid by. The Standards Committee made up of seven MP’s and seven lay members upheld the findings and suspended him from the House for 30 days, which could trigger a recall and lead to a byelection. Such decisions are rarely challenged but for some reason the Government tried to overturn it by setting up a new MP only committee with a Conservative Chair and an inbuilt Conservative majority. They whipped their MP’s even though House business is traditionally not whipped and it worked because they won the vote.
But when the Opposition parties refused to serve on the new committee, the government was forced to backdown. This was the return of cash for access but this time the Government condoned rule breaking. Not content, they also went after the independent Commissioner and the cross-party committee – as if different rules apply to them.
We live in cynical times. We are told there is a lack of trust in politics. But this crisis plumbs new depths. A government and a Prime Minister who seem to believe it’s one rule for them and another for the rest of us . Breaking international law, illegally proroguing Parliament and now trying to get one of their own off the hook seemed like part of some great game, some wheeze – an amusing way of governing. Except the jokes not funny anymore.