The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, accused the prime minister, Boris Johnson, of corruption after Johnson whipped his MPs to halt Owen Paterson’s parliamentary suspension and demand a review of the entire standards process.
Scores of Tory MPs declined to back the prime minister, however, with several saying they had been deluged by angry messages from constituents.
One Tory, Angela Richardson, MP for Guildford since 2019 and an aide to Michael Gove, confirmed she had departed from her role as a parliamentary aide after her decision to abstain. She tweeted:
“I abstained … aware that my job was at risk, but it was a matter of principle for me.”
It comes as Johnson is himself facing what would be a fourth inquiry by Kathryn Stone – the parliamentary standards commissioner who recommended Paterson be suspended for 30 days for breaking lobbying rules – into the funding of his Downing Street flat refurbishment.
In his most strongly-worded criticism of the prime minister to date, Starmer said protecting Paterson, and failing to throw out the Conservative MP Rob Roberts who was found to have harassed an aide, was corrupt.
“I am sick of people skirting around calling this out for what it is: corruption. Paterson was receiving money from a private company to ask questions on its behalf. Roberts was found to have made repeated and unwanted sexual advances toward a young staffer. Both of them should be gone – neither are fit to serve as MPs,”
Following revelations in a 2019 Guardian investigation, Stone launched an investigation and found that Paterson repeatedly approached ministers and officials on behalf of two companies that were paying him more than £100,000.