Lib Dems demand public enquiry into Tory sleaze ahead of Commons debate

Last week, Wendy Chamberlain secured a parliamentary debate following the fiasco over the standards process votes. Here she is proposing it:

And later she spoke to Sky News:

Ahead of tomorrow’s debate, the party has given an indication of what we hope to achieve.  We have called for an independent public inquiry into government sleaze and allegations of political corruption, warning that Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are “releasing sewage into our rivers and sleaze into our politics.”  The inquiry would look into various scandals including the awarding of lucrative Covid contracts to those with political links to the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson’s failure to declare that holidays abroad and the redecoration of his Downing Street flat were paid for by party donors, and last week’s attempt to block the suspension of former Conservative MP Owen Paterson after he was found to have breached lobbying rules.

The inquiry would have the power to summon witnesses and require them to give evidence under oath, including current and former government ministers and officials, and demand the disclosure of any relevant official documents and communications.

The party is also demanding that any MPs under investigation for breaking parliamentary rules should be barred from taking part in Commons votes on disciplinary issues.

And that’s hardly surprising.  It emerged that 22 Conservative MPs who voted for Andrea Leadsom’s amendment to tear up anti-sleaze rules are either being investigated or have had allegations upheld against them since the 2019 general election. This includes Owen Paterson who was able to vote on whether or not he should be suspended.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s debate, Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

“We have a Conservative government that is releasing sewage into our rivers and sleaze into our politics.

“It beggars belief that Owen Paterson was able to vote on his own suspension, while the votes of Conservative MPs currently under investigation were critical in passing Leadsom’s sleaze amendment. It’s the equivalent of defendants in a court case also taking part in the jury. We need to make sure those with a vested interest in tearing up Parliament’s anti-sleaze rules don’t have the power to do so.

“Last week’s events were just the latest example of political cronyism and corruption, from dodgy Covid contracts to Boris Johnson’s holidays secretly paid for by his wealthy donor friends.

“Time and again government ministers have refused to properly investigate allegations of sleaze, failed to declare relevant meetings and donations and tried to rig the system to cover their own backs. We need an independent public inquiry, with the powers and resources to get to the bottom of this Conservative sleaze scandal.

“People around the country who play by the rules are being let down by Boris Johnson’s Conservatives who think the rules just don’t apply to them. They deserve answers over who is influencing our politics, how taxpayers’ money is being spent and what is being done to hold those in power to account.”

My spies tell me that Wendy will be doing a lot of the morning media tomorrow.

It’s interesting that we are leading the coverage on this. Cheadle candidate Tom Morrison was featured in this Observer article today:

Tom Morrison, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the marginal Conservative seat of Cheadle, only realised this week’s Westminster sleaze crisis would be picked up by constituents when he was buttonholed by a former Tory voter in Aldi. “There was a real air of disappointment: ‘Why is he [Boris Johnson] doing this?’ And then he said: ‘It’s just not fair,’” Morrison says.

The Lib Dems, who came second to the Tories in 90 seats in December 2019, are targeting voters they call “soft Conservatives” who backed Johnson at the last general election but may have reservations about him now – not least because of the perception of sleaze.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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3 Comments

  • Steve Comer 8th Nov '21 - 8:10am

    Wendy was very good on Today programme. If you missed it you can find it here:
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0011cg5
    About an hour in just after the 07:00 news.

  • Brian Ellis 8th Nov '21 - 8:36pm

    Wendy Chamberlain has done our party a great service. I type this as I read the rolling report of the debate in the H of C she has earnt respect across the house.

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