THE TORY government was in chaos yesterday following Tuesday’s vote to disband the existing Standards Committee replacing it with a Tory dominated committee to rewrite the ‘sleaze’ rules governing MPs behaviour.
The Standards Committee is a cross-party panel of 7 MPs and 7 lay members charged with investigating allegations into the conduct of MPs.
The vote, which saw Tory MPs subjected to a three-line whip, was on the surface inspired by the select committee’s finding that Tory MP and former minister Owen Paterson has broken parliamentary rules on numerous occasions by lobbying on behalf of companies that The Guardian newspaper revealed 2 years ago had paid him over £100,000.
Paterson was handed a 30-day suspension from the Commons which could have triggered a recall ballot and forced a by-election in his seat.
On Tuesday, a Tory amendment to scrap the committee and replace it with one composed of cross-party MPs with a built-in Tory majority scraped through by a majority of 18.
This immediately created a crisis for the Tories when the Labour, LibDems and SNP parties all declared they would boycott the proposed new body making it unworkable.
This crisis was intensified when the government woke up yesterday to headlines in even the most Tory-leaning papers screaming: ‘Shameless MPs sink back into sleaze.’
So great was the public outcry, that Paterson, who had vowed to clear his name and who enjoyed the protection of Johnson and leading Tories, was forced to throw in the towel yesterday afternoon and resign as an MP citing the ‘cruel world of politics’ as his reason.
The real cruelty is being meted out daily to workers who struggle to feed and clothe their families.
All this vitriol from the right wing press is itself a reflection of the massive tide of anger from ordinary working people about the massive amounts of money being dished out by the Tory government to their supporters and the millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money handed out without any attempt at accountability to giant corporations during the pandemic.
With the stench of corruption and sleaze becoming impossible for the Tory government to ignore they performed a humiliating U-turn on Thursday morning with Jacob Rees-Mogg (who proposed the government amendment on Tuesday) forced to stand up in Parliament saying: ‘I am aware that last night’s vote has created a certain amount of controversy.’
He announced that the vote would be ignored to reach a cross-party agreement on a new body.
What has emerged from this entire debacle is that what is driving the Tories is not an overwhelming desire to protect one Tory MP but to put in motion a complete clampdown on any form of scrutiny not just of individual MPs but the entire systematic corruption at the heart of capitalism.
What is really worrying the Tories, is further investigations by the Standards Committee into lobbying over the award of contracts to private companies during the Covid pandemic, let alone the question of Johnson’s loans from a Tory donor to redecorate his flat.
In the first 6 months of the pandemic the government awarded £18 billion in coronavirus contracts.
According to press reports £1.5 billion contracts went to companies with connections to the Tory Party.
This is just the tip of an iceberg that includes handing the privateer Serco a £22 billion test-and-trace programme that the National Audit Office said produced no evidence of reducing the rate of Covid infection in England.
While workers are being driven into poverty with wage and benefit cuts – at a time when inflation is spiralling out of control – the Tories are using every trick in the book to keep in the dark all the sleazy corruption that pervades Parliament and the entire capitalist system that provides huge wealth for the bosses and poverty for the masses.
Paterson’s resignation shows the weakness and fragility of the Tory government and the strength of the working class.
One Tory MP has gone – now is the time for the working class to deal with the rest by organising a general strike to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government and socialism.