His intervention turned into a political scandal. After wanting to avoid sanctions for a member of his camp convicted of lobbying, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday backtracked amid COP26 in hopes of preserving an image of integrity. Its support for changes to the rules surrounding lobbying activities of MPs was condemned by several British dailies. “Corruption”, “shame”, “immorality”, they were especially in the headlines.
The maneuver was intended to allow any trapped MP to defend himself and appeal, and also to save his Conservative camp member Owen Paterson from being suspended from parliament. The parliamentary committee responsible for ethical questions concluded that the latter had lobbied ministers to defend the two companies for which he was acting as a paid consultant.
Labor chairman Kris Bryant on this committee criticized ministers for changing the rules to protect one of their own. “This is a perversion of justice,” he told the BBC, while Caroline Lucas, the only environment MP, accused the government of maneuvering “the Reach of hypocrisy”.
“Government’s credibility is crumbling”
“They started the week teaching the world to become more eco-friendly by supporting new oil and gas projects in the North Sea, and now they’re talking about due process while voting to help evade their own sanctions,” criticized Caroline Lucas. “It’s a government that’s in fashion do what i say, not what i do whose credibility is rapidly declining in the UK and abroad.”
The Daily Mail, a newspaper generally favored by Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party, published a scathing for the government, linking Patterson’s case to a scandal in 2009 over MPs’ spending reports. The scandal, which broke out just after the global financial crisis, fueled public distrust of politicians. The government finally backtracked on Thursday, saying the proposed reforms would not apply to Owen Paterson’s case.
Boris Johnson was also accused of hypocrisy when he returned from the Glasgow climate conference in London on Tuesday evening. According to the British press, upon his return from the plane, the Tory leader and former journalist attended a dinner at a private men’s club with former colleagues of the Daily Telegraph, including former newspaper editor Charles Moore, a climate skeptic. .
Main opposition Labor accused Boris Johnson of showing “shocking hypocrisy” after spending two days in Glasgow and called on other leaders to become more involved in the fight against climate change. Downing Street has defended Boris Johnson’s choice to go home instead of by train to London, citing time constraints and claiming that carbon emissions were being offset.
Government wants to save face
After reducing its budget devoted to international aid, the government started COP26 in a flurry of criticism, ill-effects at a time when poor countries are called upon to do more for the environment. Boris Johnson has also been accused of bad faith by France in the conflict between the two countries over post-Brexit fishing rights.
Trade Minister Kwasi Quarteng assured the BBC that the government was “fully focused on restoring a degree of integrity and honesty in public life”.
For Hannah Martin, co-director of environmental group Green New Deal Rising, trust is broken. “It’s no surprise that young people don’t trust climate leaders when politicians join ranks around an MP surrounded by corruption charges,” he told AFP.