Mornings following are agonising. The regret, the sorrow, that excruciating sense of ‘what on earth was I doing last night?’
It really is as simple as that: Take a few aspirins, bow your head and stay well below the radar.
Yesterday, Conservative MPs felt strongly that sentiment. Their catastrophic decision on Wednesday to block the suspension of Owen Paterson for breaching lobbying rules – only to see the whole thing overturned yesterday – was a misjudgment of gargantuan proportions.
The few who were brave enough to show up to Jacob Rees Mogg’s business questions support sat lifeless, dejected and wallowing in shame. It was like the line to get breakfast at the hotel buffet after a Bacchanalian wedding.
Rees-Mogg pressed his Professor Calculus glasses against his nose and informed the House that the Government had changed its mind about plans to create a new Tory-dominated antisleaze committee. Instead, he hoped to seek cross party consensus. What consensus? This week? This should make Brexit seem effortless.
Yesterday, Jacob Rees Mogg addressed the nearly empty House of Commons to announce the latest Government u-turn. This time, the Government had abandoned plans to abolish the current parliamentary sleeze system and instead sought cross-party support for reforms
Mogg’s opposite number, Shadow Commons Leader Thangam Debbonaire, built herself into a blizzard of fury. She loved every second of it, jumping excitedly at the dispatcher box. ‘Shameful!’ she bellowed.
Ms. Debbonaire is a motormouth and, despite her clear assessment of her comic ability is only as funny as a funeral. So when she gets to dance her merry jig at the Government’s expense, they really have cocked up.
Chief Whip Mark Spencer knew it. He slumbed next Mogg in doleful repose. If he wasn’t considering his position, he really should have been.
Up sprang Pete Wishart (SNP, Perth) spitting invective. ‘What a mess … Brown envelopes stuffed full of cash! … Kangaroo court!’ he barked. Mogg, as languidly detached as ever, paid little attention to him.
Paterson was not defended by any Tory member. We went beyond that. Peter Bone (Conservative from Wellingborough) was, however, unrepentant about his support of the Government the previous morning. He said he had done it as a matter conscience and was too loose cannon (and perhaps too advanced in his career) for anyone to tell him otherwise.
Paterson was not defended by any Tory member of the Tory benches. This photo was taken ahead of Wednesday’s vote regarding MP standards.
He expressed his anger at the vandalism of his constituency office. He reminded House that it had been nearly three months since the death of Sir David Amess. Mr Bone’s plight found some sympathy with Standards Committee chairman Chris Bryant (Lab, Rhondda).
Henry Deedes has more to say about the Daily Mail…
He stressed the need for care when talking about standards in public life ‘as I have tried to’. ‘Hear, hear!’ honked La Debonnaire.
Bryant is now the moral arbiter of this saga. His devastating critique of Paterson on Wednesday did much to persuade Tories of the indefensible idiocy of their party’s position. Even so, Mogg couldn’t let this slightly sanctimonious comment slide.
While he welcomed Bryant’s desire to uphold high standards, Mogg wondered why he had earlier gone on the radio to compare the Government to Putin’s Russia. Perhaps a little too OTT. Bryant didn’t care about Bryant’s attempt to chip away at the newly-minted halo. Fixing Mogg with an icy glare, he rasped: ‘You really are a disgrace.’
The saga is not a great success story for anyone, with Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle being the only exception. He has maintained an admirable neutrality – as he should of course.
His voice yesterday was sharper and more passionate than usual. His frustration at the treatment of Parliament, its ideal so sullied was palpable.
Paterson’s departure was announced hours later. There were sighs of relief at ToryHQ. Claudia Webbe, former Labour MP was given a 10-week suspended sentence for threats to throw acid on another female. It’s a sewer Westminster, it really is.
Owen Paterson resigned shortly after Jacob Rees Mogg had announced the government’s uturn