Sleazy Like Sunday Morning: Five New Allegations Levelled At MPs
Last night’s high-stakes Cop26 climate change deal gave MPs a moment of respite after weeks of relentless “sleaze” stories dominating the headlines.
However, this morning’s papers are still stuffed full of allegations about their conduct and ability to follow the rules.
The floodgates were opened when No10 tried to save Conservative Party MP Owen Paterson from suspension after he was found to have broken the rules by lobbying the government.
In an extraordinary turn of events, Boris Johnson was forced to u-turn and even dismiss suggestions Britain’s political system was corrupt during a press conference at Cop26.
The scandal is cutting through to the electorate, with an Observer/Opinium poll giving Labour a one-point lead over the Tories – the party’s first lead in this set of polling since January. Although, as you will see below, the Labour Party is not immune to accusations.
Here HuffPost UK takes you through some of the fresh allegations, that will make uncomfortable reading for both major parties today.
The Mail on Sunday alleges that the leader of the House of Commons may have breached parliamentary rules by not declaring £6 million in personal loans from his Cayman Islands-linked company.
They claim he took out £2.94 million of “director’s loans” every year between 2018 and 2020 from his UK-based company Saliston Ltd. The report says that in the MPs’ register of interests, Rees-Mogg disclosed himself as an “unremunerated director” and shareholder of the firm, but did not say he had taken out the loans.
Parliamentary rules require MPs to be “open and frank in drawing attention to any relevant interest”. By using “director’s loans” – classed by the Government as a taxable benefit – he was able to borrow the large sum at very low interest, the report said.
Rees-Mogg has insisted that as the loans were not earnings, he was not required to declare them to parliament and he had not broken any rules.
He said the company was 100 per cent owned by him, declared clearly in the Commons register and to the Cabinet Office. “It has no activities that interact with government policy,” he added.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps is in the spotlight after The Sunday Times alleged he was using a lobbying body to protect airfields from development.
The paper claimed the aviation enthusiast, who owns a £100,000 aeroplane, “set-up and diverted public money” to a new team within the Civil Aviation Authority designed to lobby against planning developments that infringe on airstrips.
But Department for Transport officials said the team was not a lobbying body and instead provided “support to general aviation on a range of matters affecting their operations”.
They said the claims were “misleading” and added: “The transport secretary works to promote all aspects of the department’s brief, including the general aviation sector which contributes £4 billion to the economy and supports 40,000 jobs.”
Sunday morning proved to be tough for Labour too, with deputy leader Angela Rayner defending Keir Starmer on the airwaves after he was accused of breaking the same parliamentary sleaze rules as Geoffrey Cox.
Starmer has been accused of using his House of Commons office for party political campaigning via Zoom in ‘Call Keir’ chats with activists.
Critics claim this contravenes the same parliamentary rules that Cox is accused of breaking when he carried out a remote court hearing for a legal case he was working on in the Caribbean.
The Labour leader is also under increased scrutiny over his stance on second jobs, considering he allegedly earned £100,000 in legal fees since becoming an MP. It also emerged that in 2015 he was paid £9,480 for advising the government of Gibraltar, which offers low-tax incentives to businesses.
The Labour leader has called for MPs to be banned from working as directors and consultants and for the rules surrounding second jobs to be tightened.
The prime minister is facing fresh accusations that he promised to use his own political power to help US tech entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri while they were in a relationship.
The Observer obtained “previously unpublished” diary extracts by Arcuri that allegedly show Johnson then Mayor of London “overruled the advice of staff to promote the business interests of his former lover.”
The diary entries allegedly suggest that he broke the rules governing ethical conduct in public office in his dealings with Arcuri.
One entry apparently recalls how Johnson told her: “How can I be the thrust – the throttle – your mere footstep as you make your career? Tell me: how I can help you?”
The prime minister has faced a number of questions over his dealings with Arcuri and has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Last year, the Independent Office for Police Conduct said it would not be launching a criminal inquiry into whether Johnson abused his position to “benefit and reward” Arcuri. Although they said Johnson should have declared conflicts of interest.
Asked at a Downing Street press conference if he had acted with honesty and integrity in his relationship with Arcuri, Johnson replied “yes”.
The Mirror reports on a less well-known Tory MP Richard Fuller who it claims received over £700,000 for extra work – with a large chunk coming from a firm which invests in spy technology in China.
The MP for North East Bedfordshire is apparently an advisory director for Investcorp – one of four jobs he has on top of being an MP.
The private equity firm has paid him more than £300,000 while he has been an MP. The company allegedly helped bankroll a firm that worked for the Chinese government on surveillance systems capable of tracking oppressed Uyghur Muslims.
Fuller told the paper: “My constituents will read your article and if they want me to respond I guess I can talk to them about it.”