Keir Starmer responds to PM's comments over sleaze row
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Steve Baker, the MP for High Wycombe, said that all politicians are “going to end up wrestling in the gutter” as a result of the row. This comes as Labour recorded their first poll lead over the Tories since January in the wake of “sleaze” allegations directed towards the Conservative party.
The party has been battling the allegations after Tory MPs voted against a 30-day suspension for fellow Conservative MP Owen Paterson, despite it being recommended by the MPs’ watchdog.
This came after Mr Paterson was found guilty of breaching parliamentary lobbying rules for his second job.
Speaking about the escalating row, Mr Baker told Express.co.uk: “I’m afraid the reputation of politics and politicians has long been in the gutter.
“People will see various politicians of all parties’ outside interests and I’m afraid we’re all going to end up wrestling in the gutter if we’re not careful.
“I’m not sure there will be a lasting party advantage over this, I just fear that there will be a lasting grubbiness to all politics and that I’m afraid I’m extremely uncomfortable with.”
In a recent Opinium poll for the Observer, the Labour party recorded 37 percent support – putting them one point ahead of the Tories.
However, Mr Baker – who leads the Conservative Party’s Net Zero Scrutiny Group – said that MPs would continue to support Boris Johnson, despite Tory voters being “very angry” with the Prime Minister.
He said: “My correspondence certainly shows that loyal tory voters are very angry with the Prime Minister over the handling of this debacle, but I don’t see tory MPs breaking ranks from the Prime Minister to condemn him.
“And there has after all been an apology for the handling of this crisis.”
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg admitted the government made a “mistake” by defending Owen Paterson after he breached MPs lobbying rules.
This came as the government U-turned on controversial plans to reform parliament’s standards committee.
MPs voted unanimously on Tuesday to scrap the plans, which would have allowed MPs to make broad sweeping changes to the system governing standards for MPs.
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Boris Johnson has declined to apologise for his handling of the scandal, saying it is “very important” to get the standards system for MPs right.
However, at a press conference on Sunday, he said: “Of course, I think things could certainly have been handled better, let me put it that way, by me.”
The Prime Minister, speaking before a debate on the issue last week, said: “We are going to make every effort to get it right. We are going to hold MPs to account. MPs should not break the rules.”
Mr Baker said he would be “reluctant to ban all second jobs”, saying that – while he himself does not have a second job – there are instances where they could benefit democracy.
He said: “This is a democracy and there is something to be said for having a leading QC in parliament. And what about hospital consultants, or nurses or GPs or others.
“I’d be reluctant to ban all second jobs, even though I won’t be taking one.
“I can see the merits of professions being able to continue.
“Where I think it’s very clear that there’s a case for stopping MPs having outside jobs is when they’re providing political or parliamentary advice to commercial interests and I can see we need to think very carefully about banning that.
“But we can’t have it both ways. We can’t complain that we’ve only got a parliament of career politicians if we’re going to prevent them being anything else.”
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