Boris Johnson Must Apologise For Sleaze Scandal, Says Keir Starmer

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Boris Johnson must apologise to parliament for his attempt to “rip up” the standards rules that govern the activity of MPs, Keir Starmer has said.

Ahead of an emergency debate in the Commons on Monday, the Labour leader said the prime minister must promise not to hand Owen Paterson a seat in the House of Lords.

Starmer also said another MP who was found guilty of sexual harassment should be kicked out of the Conservative Party.

“Boris Johnson needs to attend this debate, answer for his mistakes, apologise to the country, and take action to undo the damage he has done,” Starmer said.

“The country is yet to hear a word of contrition over his attempts to create one rule for him and his friends and another for everyone else. He must now come to the House and say sorry.”

Paterson had been found guilty by a Westminster sleaze watchdog of an “egregious” breach of the rules by lobbying ministers on behalf of companies he worked for alongside his job as an MP. It recommended the former Tory minister be suspended from the Commons for 30 days as punishment. 

The suspension would usually have been a formality, but Downing Street told Conservative MPs to block it.

No.10 also attempted to hand oversight of enforcing parliamentary standards to a new committee with a Tory majority.

Johnson was forced to swiftly U-turn amid a backlash from opposition parties.

Tory MPs who agreed to vote as they were told, only for the government to abandon the plan less than 24-hours later, have hit out at the affair.

Robert Halfon, the senior Conservative who chairs the education committee, said he and his colleagues were fed up with being treated as “cannon fodder” by Johnson. 

“It’s like sending troops into battle without proper shoes or armour in order to fight that battle,” he told Times Radio.

Paterson decided to quit parliament rather than face being suspended in a second Commons vote. But ministers have not ruled out the veteran Tory being handed a seat in the Lords.

Starmer said Johnson should speak in the Commons debate on Monday and “start by confirming that he won’t nominate Owen Paterson – or any other MPs who have been handed suspensions from Parliament – for a peerage”.

 Among the MPs to vote against Paterson being suspended was Rob Roberts, who lost the Tory whip after he was found to have sexually harassed a member of staff. But while he now sits as an independent in the Commons, the Delyn MP remains a member of the Conservative Party.

Starmer said: “It is disgraceful that Mr Roberts has been welcomed back as both a Member of Parliament and the Conservative Party despite having been found to have sexually harassed a junior member of staff.

“That he was able to aid and abet the prime minister in his attempts to corrupt British politics last week should be a source of shame to the Tories. The prime minister was prepared to rip up the system to save one of his disgraced MPs – why will he not take action to protect others from this one?” 

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