Does Boris have to declare the value of his holiday? 

Boris Johnson is attempting to use the Commons own anti-bribery rules to justify his attempt to keep secret the value of his family’s Spanish holiday.

The Code of Conduct for MPs sets out that they should acknowledge and publish details of any trip out of the UK worth more than £300 unless they pay for it themselves or it is paid for by the taxpayer for a legitimate reason. 

But there is an exception for family holidays.  The rules say that to qualify the trip must relate ‘to their membership of the House or to their parliamentary or political activities’.

Downing Street argues that because it was a holiday with Carrie and Wilfred unconnected to work, the rules do not apply in this case. They pointed to a section of the code which states that MPs do not need to register ‘visits wholly unconnected with membership of the House or with the Member’s parliamentary or political activities (e.g. family holidays)’.

They also argue that because he was gifted the stay by Lord Goldsmith, it was ‘arrangement in his ministerial capacity, given this was hospitality provided by another minister’ and therefore not linked to his work as MP for Uxbridge.

However, when registering the stay in the less exacting Register of Ministerial Interests the PM said it was owned by ‘the Goldsmiths’.

And his entry in the Lords’ register of members interest Lord Goldsmith mentions ‘land in Andalucia owned by a family trust of which the member is a beneficiary’.

Torre Tramores was originally purchased by Lord Goldsmith’s financier late father James, and mother Annabel, 87. If ownership of the estate is among the wider family that could undermine part of the PM’s argument.

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Boris Johnson is facing mounting sleaze fury today after refusing to reveal the value of a free family holiday he was given at the lavish Spanish estate of one of his richest ministers.

Downing Street confirmed this morning that the Johnsons’ October stay at the Marbella home of Lord Goldsmith would not be placed on the register of MPs’ financial interests, which would require him to say how much it was worth.

The move to keep secret the value of the visit to the Torre Tramores estate, which had a rental value of £25,000 per night, is the Prime Minister’s latest confrontation with political transparency watchdogs.

Last night it was revealed he is is facing the threat of a new probe into the opulent revamp of his Downing Street flat by the Commons Standards Commissioner he has attempted to undermine.

The Daily Mail understands that the commissioner will make a decision on whether to launch an inquiry into the funding of the refurbishment as soon as a separate probe being conducted by the Electoral Commission has been completed. 

The Prime Minister was forced last night to deny claims that his botched effort to overhaul the standards process had been a ‘pre-emptive’ strike on Kathryn Stone.

Cabinet minister Kwasi Kwarteng yesterday suggested the parliamentary standards commissioner’s role was untenable in the wake of the row over Owen Paterson

But she appears to be on firm ground after Mr Johnson’s U-turn led to Mr Paterson’s resignation as an MP and widespread fury among his backbenchers.

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points.

The party is now just one point ahead of Labour, after dropping from 39 per cent to 36 per cent in a week, while Keir Starmer has seen a boost to 35 per cent, according to the survey in The Times. 

The latest brazen behaviour by Mr Johnson could also fuel an escalating spat with Speaker Lindsay Hoyle over ministers failing to show respect for Parliament. 

Sir Lindsay has repeatedly rebuked the government for making announcements in press conferences and interviews instead of coming to the Commons.

In the latest spat yesterday, the Speaker tore into Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng for suggesting that standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson should resign.

The Prime Minister quietly revealed in the latest list of ministerial interests that Lord Goldsmith allowed him, Carrie and Wilfred to stay at his £25,000-per-night estate near Marbella without payment.

The Prime Minister quietly revealed in the latest list of ministerial interests that Lord Goldsmith allowed him, Carrie and Wilfred to stay at his £25,000-per-night estate near Marbella without payment.

The Prime Minister quietly revealed in the latest list of ministerial interests that Lord Goldsmith allowed him, Carrie and Wilfred to stay at his £25,000-per-night estate near Marbella without payment.

A No 10 spokesman today said the holiday provided by 'a longstanding friend' of the PM had been registered correctly.

A No 10 spokesman today said the holiday provided by 'a longstanding friend' of the PM had been registered correctly.

A No 10 spokesman today said the holiday provided by ‘a longstanding friend’ of the PM had been registered correctly.

In the latest register, released yesterday, a simple paragraph reads: 'The Prime Minister has a longstanding personal friendship with the Goldsmith family and, in that capacity, in October 2021, stayed in a holiday home in southern Spain which was provided free of charge by the Goldsmiths. 'Given Lord Goldsmith is a Minister of the Crown, the arrangement has accordingly been declared.'

In the latest register, released yesterday, a simple paragraph reads: 'The Prime Minister has a longstanding personal friendship with the Goldsmith family and, in that capacity, in October 2021, stayed in a holiday home in southern Spain which was provided free of charge by the Goldsmiths. 'Given Lord Goldsmith is a Minister of the Crown, the arrangement has accordingly been declared.'

In the latest register, released yesterday, a simple paragraph reads: ‘The Prime Minister has a longstanding personal friendship with the Goldsmith family and, in that capacity, in October 2021, stayed in a holiday home in southern Spain which was provided free of charge by the Goldsmiths. ‘Given Lord Goldsmith is a Minister of the Crown, the arrangement has accordingly been declared.’

Goldsmith is the former MP for Richmond Park – a close friend of the PM’s wife – who was elevated to the peerage by Mr Johnson after losing his seat at the 2019 election.

The move allowed the 46-year-old (pictured at Cop26 this week with the Prince of Wales)  to remain in Government as an environment minister. He is currently Minister for the Pacific and the Environment.

The move allowed the 46-year-old (pictured at Cop26 this week with the Prince of Wales)  to remain in Government as an environment minister. He is currently Minister for the Pacific and the Environment.

The move allowed the 46-year-old (pictured at Cop26 this week with the Prince of Wales)  to remain in Government as an environment minister. He is currently Minister for the Pacific and the Environment.

Vicious blame game erupts after Boris’s sleaze U-turn 

Livid Tories today hammered chief whip Mark Spencer over the Commons sleaze shambles branding him ‘out of his depth’ and warning his credibility is ‘below junk bond status’.

Mr Spencer is facing the wrath of many MPs over the bungled bid to save Owen Paterson from punishment over lobbying, which culminated in an humiliating U-turn and the ex-minister resigning from parliament.

The meltdown is said to have left some MPs in marginal Red Wall seats ‘in tears’ as they were hit with a barrage of abuse on social media and in their postbags.

However, allies of Mr Spencer have hit back by pointing the finger at Mr Johnson – saying the chief would not have acted without ‘total support and approval’ from No10.

The backlash has intensified after a poll suggested the Tories have suffered huge damage from the debacle, with their poll lead plunging by five points in a week.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government ‘made a mistake’ in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson’s case to wider reforms.

But a blame game is in full swing over who was responsible for the meltdown. As well as a wave of anger about Mr Johnson’s lack of judgment – with criticism that took his eye off the ball amid the COP26 summit – Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg and Mr Spencer are taking flak.

One former minister told MailOnline that Mr Spencer had not done his job properly. ‘If the PM was told about the extent of dissatisfaction then he wouldn’t have pushed it,’ they said. ‘You could tell there was a problem because the whips were literally running around the Commons.’

Another Conservative MP said Mr Spencer is a ‘very nice guy’ but ‘out of his depth’. ‘The Cabinet is full of nodding yes men,’ they raged. ‘We have a chief whip who doesn’t communicate anything back to No10 that he doesn’t think No10 wants to hear.

‘There’s a mindset of we’ve got an 80-strong majority, we can do whatever the hell we like.

‘I had two marginal male MPs from Red Wall seats in tears looking at their social media feed, looking at their emails coming in after the vote, going ‘what the hell have we done?’.’

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When registering the stay in the less exacting Register of Ministerial Interests the PM said it was owned by ‘the Goldsmiths’. 

And his entry in the Lords’ register of members interest Lord Goldsmith himself  mentions ‘land in Andalucia owned by a family trust of which the member is a beneficiary’. 

One Commons source told MailOnline that if the villa was owned by the Goldsmith family it could not be treated solely as a gift from Lord Goldsmith – which could torpedo No10’s arguments against putting it on the MP register.

‘It’s the arrogance now,’ another Westminster source said. ‘Things like this will bring them down. They are spending credit at such a rate. It is absurd.’

Downing Street today claimed that because the Johnsons’ holiday in Spain last month was provided by a minister it falls outside the remit of the House of Commons financial probity watchdog. 

The holiday was yesterday revealed on the ministerial register of interests as having provided free of charge by Goldsmith, a former MP and friend of Carrie Johnson who was handed a peerage by Mr Johnson after losing his Commons seat in 2019.

But an entry on the separate MPs register would require revealing how much the benefit in kind was worth.  The Torre Tramores estate, where Mr Johnson, Carrie and their son Wilfred stayed, is available for private rent at a cost of £25,000 per night for a secluded retreat with its own private helipad. 

A No 10 spokesman today said the holiday provided by ‘a longstanding friend’ had been registered correctly.

‘The Prime Minister’s met the transparency requirements in relation to this, he declared this arrangement in his ministerial capacity, given this was hospitality provided by another minister,’ he said.

However, the ministerial code entry says the property was provided by ‘the Goldsmiths’, not just the minister. 

He added that the PM has written to the House of Commons registrar ‘to set out’ the arrangement. He did not clarify when asked whether the registrar had replied to Mr Johnson’s letter, but added: ‘As I say, ministerial code declarations fall outside the remit of the House of Commons registrar and Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.’

Labour has demanded a probe into the holiday by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner. In a letter last night deputy leader Angela Rayner said: ‘Lord Goldsmith was given a peerage and a ministerial job by Mr Johnson. The public could understandably draw the conclusion in this case that the Prime Minister is dishing out cushy jobs to his friends who pay for his luxury holidays.

‘We cannot have a situation where Boris Johnson behaves like it’s one rule for him and another for everyone else. I would be grateful for your guidance on whether this is a breach of the rules, and whether you will investigate the Member of Parliament for Uxbridge and South Ruislip.’

Downing Street has justified its decision by pointing to a section in the Code of Conduct for MPs regarding trips abroad which says that among those that do not need to be declared are ‘visits wholly unconnected with membership of the House or with the Member’s parliamentary or political activities (e.g. family holidays)’.  

The spokesman added that the PM’s ministerial standards adviser Lord Geidt had scrutinised the declaration as part of the process. 

Asked why the PM’s Marbella holiday did not need to be declared on the register of members’ interests, the spokesman replied: ‘The ministerial code declarations fall outside the remit of the House of Commons register.’ 

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points

Goldsmith is the former MP for Richmond Park who was elevated to the peerage by Mr Johnson after losing his seat to the Liberal Democrats.

The move allowed the 46-year-old to remain in Government as an environment minister. He is currently Minister for the Pacific and the Environment having been given an additional role in a 2020 reshuffle.

The stay at the Torre Tramores in early October sparked fury as Mr Johnson left the UK amid a gas price crisis that struck businesses. 

In the latest register, released yesterday, a simple paragraph reads: ‘The Prime Minister has a longstanding personal friendship with the Goldsmith family and, in that capacity, in October 2021, stayed in a holiday home in southern Spain which was provided free of charge by the Goldsmiths. 

‘Given Lord Goldsmith is a Minister of the Crown, the arrangement has accordingly been declared.’

But the Liberal Democrat’s Wendy Chamberlain said: ‘Boris Johnson and the Tories have shown this week they don’t have a shred of integrity left.

‘The Independent Standards Commissioner should urgently launch an investigation into whether Boris Johnson breached the code of conduct by failing to properly declare his holiday.

 ‘The Tories have shown they can’t be trusted to mark their own homework on this issue. They are now the party of sleaze.’

Boris Johnson, pictured here with his wife Carrie during the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall in June, is facing a new sleaze probe into his affairs, this time in relation to the controversial refurbishment of his Downing Street flat

Boris Johnson, pictured here with his wife Carrie during the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall in June, is facing a new sleaze probe into his affairs, this time in relation to the controversial refurbishment of his Downing Street flat

Boris Johnson, pictured here with his wife Carrie during the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall in June, is facing a new sleaze probe into his affairs, this time in relation to the controversial refurbishment of his Downing Street flat

Boris Johnson commissioned eco-friendly interior designer Lulu Lytle whose gold wallpaper can cost as much as £840 a roll. Tory donor Lord Brownlow initially paid an invoice to over some of the costs before the BP settled the bill himself

Boris Johnson commissioned eco-friendly interior designer Lulu Lytle whose gold wallpaper can cost as much as £840 a roll. Tory donor Lord Brownlow initially paid an invoice to over some of the costs before the BP settled the bill himself

Boris Johnson commissioned eco-friendly interior designer Lulu Lytle whose gold wallpaper can cost as much as £840 a roll. Tory donor Lord Brownlow initially paid an invoice to over some of the costs before the BP settled the bill himself 

The position adopted by Mr Johnson comes after he registered his previous controversial holiday with the Commons authorities.

Kathryn Stone, the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards,  castigated the Prime Minister in the summer over a lavish £15,000 Caribbean holiday in 2019 funded by Tory donors.

But he was saved from punishment – which could have included being the first serving premier to be suspended from the Commons, by MPs who overturned her ruling.  

The cross-party Standards Committee found the PM had made an ‘accurate and complete’ declaration about the holiday in December 2019, saying it was a donation from Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross even though the couple did not stay in his villa.

The committee – chaired by Labour MP Chris Bryant – over-ruled Ms Stone after she concluded that Mr Johnson did breach the Code of Conduct for MPs during a 15-month wrangle after initially failing to provide a full explanation, slamming him for ‘not showing the accountability required of those in public life’.

The report also suggested that the premier himself did not know exactly how the jaunt was being funded until after he arrived on Mustique and realised he was not staying in Mr Ross’s own property. 

Meanwhile the Electoral Commission has handed over its initial findings on wallpapergate to Tory party chiefs who now have an opportunity to respond.

Tory donor Lord Brownlow paid an invoice to cover some of the costs for the works, effectively giving Mr Johnson a loan, before the PM eventually settled the bill himself. However, this was not declared until after the Mail published a string of exposes. Eco-friendly interior designer Lulu Lytle was hired to transform the flat with gold wallpaper costing as much as £840 a roll.

Lord Geidt, the ministerial standards adviser, earlier this year found Mr Johnson did not breach the ministerial code but acted ‘unwisely’ in allowing the refurbishment to go ahead without ‘more rigorous regard for how this would be funded’.

The Electoral Commission is carrying out a separate investigation into whether donations to the party were properly declared.

An inquiry by Miss Stone would be the third probe into the matter if she goes ahead. Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner requested in June that she investigate. Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s former chief aide, yesterday claimed in a tweet that the Government’s bid to change the standards process to spare Mr Paterson from being punished was actually ‘a pre-emptive strike by [the] PM on [the] EC (Electoral Commission) and [Miss] Stone’.

But No 10 denied the planned overhaul had been designed to protect Mr Johnson’s own interests.

Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer (R) is also under fire, with some Tories saying he should resign over the debacle concerning Owen Paterson

Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer (R) is also under fire, with some Tories saying he should resign over the debacle concerning Owen Paterson

Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer (R) is also under fire, with some Tories saying he should resign over the debacle concerning Owen Paterson

Meanwhile, a blame game is in full swing over who was responsible for the Owen Paterson standards meltdown – which culminated last night when Mr Paterson resigned from the Commons after the PM cut him loose.

His exit was made official this morning when he was appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead – the traditional way for MPs to quit the House.

As well as a wave of anger about Mr Johnson’s lack of judgment, many Tories have been pointing the finger at chief whip Mark Spencer, saying he should have realised that the tactic would not ‘fly’. One MP told MailOnline that Mr Spencer had not done his job properly. 

‘If the PM was told about the extent of disatisfaction then he wouldn’t have pushed it,’ they said. ‘You could tell there was a problem because the whips were literally running around the Commons.’

The premier is said to be ‘p****d off’ that the crisis has distracted from the progress being made on climate change at the Cop26 conference in Glasgow. Senior MPs said he was also ‘livid’ about triumphalist interviews by Mr Paterson in which he claimed he would not change anything about his past behaviour. 

No10 has been forced to deny claims that his botched effort to overhaul the standards process had been a ‘pre-emptive’ strike on commissioner Kathryn Stone – with whom Mr Johnson has clashed repeatedly.

He is still under the threat of inquiry by the watchdog into the funding of his Downing Street flat refurbishment, with a decision due to be taken on whether to go ahead once a separate Electoral Commission investigation.

No10, however, was quick to reject suggestions that the case was linked to attempts to reform the rules over the last few days.  

Tory poll lead plunges FIVE POINTS in the wake of Owen Paterson shambles as Nadhim Zahawi admits ‘we made a mistake’ – with furious MPs blaming the PM and chief whip

Boris Johnson is struggling to contain mounting fury on Tory benches today as a poll laid bare the damage inflicted by his bungled effort to save ally Owen Paterson from punishment for lobbying.

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points.

The party is now just one point ahead of Labour, after dropping from 39 per cent to 36 per cent in a week, while Keir Starmer has seen a boost to 35 per cent, according to the survey in The Times.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government ‘made a mistake’ in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson’s case to wider reforms.

Meanwhile, a blame game is in full swing over who was responsible for the meltdown – which culminated last night when Mr Paterson resigned from the Commons after the PM cut him loose. His exit was made official this morning when he was appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead – the traditional way for MPs to quit the House.

As well as a wave of anger about Mr Johnson’s lack of judgment, many Tories have been pointing the finger at chief whip Mark Spencer, saying he should have realised that the tactic would not ‘fly’. One MP told MailOnline that Mr Spencer had not done his job properly. 

‘If the PM was told about the extent of disatisfaction then he wouldn’t have pushed it,’ they said. ‘You could tell there was a problem because the whips were literally running around the Commons.’

The premier is said to be ‘p****d off’ that the crisis has distracted from the progress being made on climate change at the Cop26 conference in Glasgow. Senior MPs said he was also ‘livid’ about triumphalist interviews by Mr Paterson in which he claimed he would not change anything about his past behaviour. 

No10 has been forced to deny claims that his botched effort to overhaul the standards process had been a ‘pre-emptive’ strike on commissioner Kathryn Stone – with whom Mr Johnson has clashed repeatedly.

He is still under the threat of inquiry by the watchdog into the funding of his Downing Street flat refurbishment, with a decision due to be taken on whether to go ahead once a separate Electoral Commission investigation.

No10, however, was quick to reject suggestions that the case was linked to attempts to reform the rules over the last few days.  

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government 'made a mistake' in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson's case to wider reforms

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government 'made a mistake' in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson's case to wider reforms

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government ‘made a mistake’ in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson’s case to wider reforms

In a round of interviews, Mr Zahawi said creating a system of appeal for suspended MPs should not have been conflated with the Paterson case.

He told Sky News: ‘The Prime Minister has always been very clear that paid lobbying is not allowed.

‘The mistake is the conflation of creating a fairer system with the right of appeal for Parliamentarians to be able to put forward an appeal process.

‘Conflating that with the particular case of Owen Paterson was a mistake and I think the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, came to the House yesterday, upon reflection yes it was a mistake, and I think it was right to come back very quickly to the House and say we need to separate these things out.

‘We should work on a cross-party basis to create a fairer system, I think that’s a good thing.

‘And my appeal to my fellow Parliamentarians from all parties is: let’s come together and create a better system with a right of appeal.’

He told BBC Radio 4 that the shambles should not cast doubt on the Mr Johnson’s judgment.

‘I think actually it says that the Prime Minister, when wanting to be following a process that makes the system fairer… wanted to do that,’ he said.

‘That is absolutely not true, and Kathryn Stone and her duties are the responsibility of the House of Commons, and the Speaker of the House.

‘And I think the important thing to remember is that Parliament as the legislative chamber of our country has absolutely the right to look at and improve the system…’

Mr Zahawi said the issue of the No11 flat had been looked at by Mr Johnson’s own ministerial standards adviser Lord Geidt ‘and the Prime Minister was found not to have broken any ministerial code’.

‘I think it was looked at by Lord Geidt, it’s a ministerial declaration and I think that’s the correct way of doing this. We have very good robust processes, we always want to improve them, but I think that’s the correct way of doing it,’ he said. 

Some sources suggested Downing Street is trying to throw Mr Spencer under the bus in order to absolve the PM of responsibility.

‘The chief [whip] only does as he is ordered,’ an ally of Mr Spencer told the Times, while another accused No10 of being ‘spineless’ and attempting to hide its own complicity in the plan. 

As the criticism continued to grow, one Cabinet minister said Mr Johnson should have made Mr Paterson ‘turn up and accept his punishment’ rather than put the full might of the Government machine behind him.

Another senior minister said: ‘This was completely avoidable. 

‘The problem with Boris is he packs his Cabinet with second-rate people, meaning there is no one to tell him he should take a different course.’ 

The minister added: ‘It all just looks like we’re back to the 1990s – MPs getting together to support their friends.’

Meanwhile, former chief whip Mark Harper declared: ‘This is one of the most unedifying episodes I have seen in my 16 years as an MP.’

Mr Paterson said today he will be ‘stepping aside’ from his consultancy work following his resignation from the Commons.

In a tweet Mr Paterson said: ‘Thank you to the many people who have sent their kind wishes to me and my family this week.

‘At this difficult time, I will be stepping aside from my current consultancy work to focus on my family and suicide prevention.’ 

Livid Tories today hammered chief whip Mark Spencer over the Commons sleaze shambles branding him ‘out of his depth’ and warning his credibility is ‘below junk bond status’.

Mr Spencer is facing the wrath of many MPs over the bungled bid to save Mr Paterson from punishment over lobbying.

However, allies have hit back by pointing the finger at Mr Johnson – saying the chief would not have acted without ‘total support and approval’ from No10. 

The blame game is in full swing over who was responsible for the meltdown. 

As well as a wave of anger about Mr Johnson’s lack of judgment – with criticism that took his eye off the ball amid the COP26 summit – Mr Spencer is facing complaints that he should have realised the tactic would not ‘fly’. 

One MP told MailOnline that Mr Spencer had not done his job properly.  ‘If the PM was told about the extent of dissatisfaction then he wouldn’t have pushed it,’ they said. ‘You could tell there was a problem because the whips were literally running around the Commons.’

Another Conservative said Mr Spencer is a ‘very nice guy’ but ‘out of his depth’. ‘The Cabinet is full of nodding yes men,’ they raged. ‘We have a chief whip who doesn’t communicate anything back to No10 that he doesn’t think No10 wants to hear.

‘There’s a mindset of we’ve got an 80-strong majority, we can do whatever the hell we like.

‘I had two marginal male MPs from Red Wall seats in tears looking at their social media feed, looking at their emails coming in after the vote, going ‘what the hell have we done?’.’

The MP insisted that his colleagues were determined not to be ‘sh** on’ again and would simply ignore stupid demands from the leadership.

‘The chat on the WhatsApp groups is that the whips can stick their whipping up their a***. It’s now every man for himself,’ they said.

One Tory said: ‘Obviously there is anger at the PM, but there is a real feeling the Chief should be considering his position. 

‘He laid down a three-line whip, threatened people with having their funding removed, sacked someone and had to reinstate her – all for a stupid vote that had to be abandoned the next day.’ But No 10 yesterday insisted the PM retains ‘full confidence’ in Mr Spencer.

Former Cabinet minister Stephen Crabb said many MPs defending ‘very narrow’ majorities were furious at being ‘dragged into this whole sleaze agenda’.

In the wake of Wednesday night’s vote Mr Paterson had given an unrepentant interview in which he said he ‘wouldn’t hesitate’ to repeat his actions.

But last night, Mr Johnson said he was ‘very sad’ to be losing Mr Paterson, adding: ‘He has had a distinguished career, serving in two cabinet positions, and above all he has been a voice for freedom – for free markets and free trade and free societies – and he was an early and powerful champion of Brexit.’  

Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer (R) is also under fire, with some Tories saying he should resign over the debacle concerning Owen Paterson

Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer (R) is also under fire, with some Tories saying he should resign over the debacle concerning Owen Paterson

Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer (R) is also under fire, with some Tories saying he should resign over the debacle concerning Owen Paterson

A political fiasco that started over claret and pheasant at the garrick… and ended in humiliation

By ANDREW PIERCE FOR THE DAILY MAIL 

Tuesday night at the Garrick, the favoured London watering hole since 1831 of the illustrious denizens of the media, legal, theatrical and political world. 

And there, holding court in boisterous fashion was Boris Johnson, totally at ease in the wood-panelled splendour of the private gentlemen’s club, amongst old friends from his days as a journalist.

Boris had arrived back in the capital just hours earlier, having flown in by chartered jet from Glasgow where he has been hosting the world’s statesmen and women at Cop26, while also delivering doomsday predictions about climate change.

Quite how he squared that flight with his final utterances at the UN beanfeast, when he urged the world to stop ‘quilting the earth in an invisible and suffocating blanket of CO2’, is not known. But then Boris had a dinner date and he wasn’t going to miss it.

In the Milne Room, beneath a portrait of AA Milne – the creator of Winnie The Pooh who bequeathed a portion of the rights to his books to the Garrick – Boris joined 30 former leader writers (including three women who are permitted as guests at the club but not as members) from The Daily Telegraph.

This is the newspaper, of course, where Boris made his name as a young reporter who became the scourge of Brussels and EU lunacy, and which later paid him a princely £250,000 a year for a weekly column until he entered the Cabinet.

The group tucked into fish cakes and pheasant followed by chocolate souffle at £85 a head, all washed down with a piquant club Claret.

Owen Paterson, who was suspended from Parliament for lobbying on behalf of two firms which paid him more than £500,000, has resigned from the 'cruel world of politics'

Owen Paterson, who was suspended from Parliament for lobbying on behalf of two firms which paid him more than £500,000, has resigned from the 'cruel world of politics'

Owen Paterson, who was suspended from Parliament for lobbying on behalf of two firms which paid him more than £500,000, has resigned from the ‘cruel world of politics’

Having worked the room extensively before dinner, Boris – who resigned his membership of the Garrick a decade ago – was now locked in conversation with his former editor Charles Moore, who was sitting opposite him at the long dining table.

I am told that Owen Paterson’s name was mentioned – and that is no surprise. Moore, recently elevated to the House of Lords, is a friend of 45 years’ standing of Paterson and his late wife Rose (who committed suicide last year), from their time at Cambridge together.

Moore has argued in The Telegraph that Paterson, a fellow Brexiteer, had been unfairly ‘hounded’ by the Parliamentary commissioner Kathryn Stone, who had found he had improperly lobbied on behalf of two firms from whom he had received a combined annual remuneration of more than £100,000. Stone, Moore noted, had absolutely ‘no legal training and it showed’.

Later, Boris, who stayed for almost two hours, made a typically rumbustious speech extolling the virtues of his old newspaper.

The next day he ordered Tory MPs to vote down a 30-day suspension against Paterson that was proposed by the 14-strong, cross-party Commons standards committee, who after their own investigation endorsed Stone’s findings.

The emergence of the Garrick dinner has left many Tory MPs feeling distinctly queasy and deeply suspicious, with one telling me: ‘It feels like this was all stitched up over the port and stilton at the Garrick. It could not be further away from the Red Wall seats in the North we have to hold where this episode will cause us huge damage.’

So exactly how significant was that chat at the Garrick between Boris and his old boss?

It was on Tuesday that the plan to shore up Paterson ahead of the vote, which was partly conceived by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexit- supporting Leader of the Commons, began taking shape. It was agreed that the Government would back an amendment by former Cabinet minister Dame Andrea Leadsom, which would reject the suspension of Paterson.

The amendment would scrap the existing disciplinary system and propose a new committee of MPs – half of whom would come from the Conservative Party with the other half from opposition parties – tasked with rewriting rules for parliamentary standards. 

The same day, the Government’s Chief Whip Mark Spencer telephoned John Whittingdale, another Brexiteer, who had been sacked as culture minister in the reshuffle in September. Whittingdale, a friend of Boris’s wife Carrie, had been upset by his dismissal.

Now Spencer was offering him the position of chairman of the new Commons standards committee to be set up after the Leadsom amendment was carried.

‘It was Boris’s idea to give John the job as he felt bad about booting him out in the reshuffle because he was a good minister,’ a source close to No 10 told me.

Whittingdale was surprised to be offered the job as he’s not been a vocal champion of Paterson and they are not close. In fact, for the last ten days Whittingdale has been isolating after contracting Covid and was not able to vote on the suspension on Wednesday.

Pictured: The Garrick Club - the favoured London watering hole since 1831 of the illustrious denizens of the media, legal, theatrical and political world

Pictured: The Garrick Club - the favoured London watering hole since 1831 of the illustrious denizens of the media, legal, theatrical and political world

Pictured: The Garrick Club – the favoured London watering hole since 1831 of the illustrious denizens of the media, legal, theatrical and political world

But when he agreed to take the position, he assumed that the Tories had sought and secured co-operation from Labour and other opposition MPs. He could not have been more wrong.

Neither Rees-Mogg nor Spencer had nailed down a concrete agreement with opposition parties to serve on the new committee. The plan was doomed from the start as parliamentary committees have to be cross-party.

That failure was yet to emerge, however, when the Tory whips decided on Wednesday morning that they would ramp up the pressure on their MPs by decreeing there would be a three-line Whip, meaning every Tory MP who was in the Commons who didn’t vote in favour of the amendment and against the Paterson suspension would find themselves in trouble.

Waverers were warned they would receive less financial aid at the next general election unless they toed the line. ‘It was really heavy duty,’ said one MP.

Some MPs believe it was Moore’s intervention at the Garrick that persuaded Boris to get tough. But it was also another serious error of judgment. The whips had failed to spot the growing unease on their own side at the perception the Leadsom amendment would be seen as the Government changing the rules to benefit Paterson – even though his suspension had been unanimously agreed by the standards committee which included four Tory MPs (one of whom – Sir Bernard Jenkin – had recused himself due to his close friendship with Paterson).

Even Tory MPs willing to back the vote recognised that the Paterson issue was turning into a public relations disaster. Jenkin told the BBC on Wednesday that the optics ‘look terrible’ but insisted there is ‘no alternative’.

Before the vote in the Commons, Chris Bryant, the Labour chairman of the standards committee, delivered a measured and persuasive speech. ‘He argued his corner well,’ conceded one Cabinet minister. ‘I knew then it was not going to end well.’

But Jacob Rees-Mogg, who responded for the Government, and Dame Andrea Leadsom, who tabled the amendment, were struggling to win over their own side, let alone opposition MPs.

Even Tory MPs willing to back the vote to block the suspension of Paterson recognised that the issue was turning into a public relations disaster. Sir Bernard Jenkin (pictured) told the BBC on Wednesday that the optics ¿look terrible¿ but insisted there is ¿no alternative¿.

Even Tory MPs willing to back the vote to block the suspension of Paterson recognised that the issue was turning into a public relations disaster. Sir Bernard Jenkin (pictured) told the BBC on Wednesday that the optics ¿look terrible¿ but insisted there is ¿no alternative¿.

Even Tory MPs willing to back the vote to block the suspension of Paterson recognised that the issue was turning into a public relations disaster. Sir Bernard Jenkin (pictured) told the BBC on Wednesday that the optics ‘look terrible’ but insisted there is ‘no alternative’.

When the result of the vote was announced, and the Government had squeaked home with a majority of 18, Tory MPs sat in stony silence as even usually mild-mannered Labour MPs bellowed ‘shame, shame’.

As my colleague Henry Deedes noted yesterday, the 250 Tory MPs who voted for the amendment looked ashamed. One of those who abstained, Angela Richardson, parliamentary private secretary to Housing Secretary Michael Gove, was sacked by the PM.

After the vote, a triumphant Paterson took to the airwaves and made matters even worse by telling Channel 4 News he had done nothing wrong. ‘I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again tomorrow, absolutely no question,’ he said.

In No 10, they were aghast. The PM and his aides had been assured that Paterson would be conciliatory – not confrontational and unrepentant. It was the final straw for opposition MPs who said they would they would have nothing to do with the new committee.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: ‘The Tories voted to give a green light to corruption. Labour will not be taking any part in this sham process or any corrupt committee.’

Another minister told me: ‘I couldn’t believe it. I was agreeing with Angela Rayner for the first time in my life.’ By yesterday’s 8.30am strategy meeting at No 10, it was obvious the game was up.

And when Lord Evans of Weardale, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, rewrote his long-planned speech to the Institute of Government yesterday to say the Tory-led review into the disciplinary process for MPs was ‘deeply at odds with the best traditions of British democracy’, it all fell apart.

Here was the PM’s own adviser on ethics publicly condemning the move as a ‘very serious and damaging moment for Parliament’.

So it was that Rees-Mogg confirmed at the No 10 meeting that the new committee was dead in the water.

He was one of the key architects of the plan and was dispatched to announce the screeching and humiliating U-turn.

Angela Richardson, who had been sacked as Gove’s aide 14 hours earlier, was reinstated.

Other ministerial aides, who had been warned their careers were over unless they voted for the amendment, were incensed.

As for Owen Paterson, no one even bothered to tell him about the U-turn. He was in a supermarket when he was telephoned by a BBC journalist, who broke it to him that the Government had abandoned him.

Owen Paterson (C) resigned as MP for North Shropshire following backlash over sleaze. It was revealed that Paterson had broken parliamentary standards by lobbying on behalf of companies that had paid him more than half a million pounds

Owen Paterson (C) resigned as MP for North Shropshire following backlash over sleaze. It was revealed that Paterson had broken parliamentary standards by lobbying on behalf of companies that had paid him more than half a million pounds

Owen Paterson (C) resigned as MP for North Shropshire following backlash over sleaze. It was revealed that Paterson had broken parliamentary standards by lobbying on behalf of companies that had paid him more than half a million pounds

Paterson realised he was trapped. The U-turn meant he was now the new poster boy for Tory sleaze. By 11am yesterday he was consulting friends and family about whether to quit altogether. His departure was the final act in what was a political farce from beginning to end. 

Perhaps if Boris had bothered to inform himself of the findings of the standards committee – which in its 169-page report found Paterson was guilty of an ‘egregious’ breach of the MPs code – the Government would not be in such a mess.

Rees-Mogg is being blamed for the huge strategic error of not anticipating that the opposition parties would boycott the new committee and expose it as a Tory-only sham.

Spencer is also at fault for his bull in a china shop approach to the vote.

But at the centre of it all is Boris, who many MPs believe was so determined to wreak revenge on the Kathryn Stone – after she found that he himself had broken the ministerial code over his free holiday to Mustique last year – that he became blind and deaf to the evidence against Paterson. This controversy is merely the latest in a string of self-inflicted own goals which is leading many to ask exactly who is in charge in No 10?

Whether it was Boris’s refusal to say who initially paid for a lavish refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan and failure to make provision for the evacuation of brave interpreters, or the controversy over the Northern Ireland border, the charge sheet is lengthening.

When Tony Blair was PM, he had a strong and long-serving kitchen cabinet. Jonathan Powell, an experienced diplomat, was his chief of staff from 1994 until the day he left Downing Street in 2007.

Likewise Anji Hunter, a friend from his teenage years, was his director of government relations and his influential gatekeeper. Boris Johnson has no such equivalents. He is missing aides of the calibre of Lord (Eddie) Lister, now 72, who was his trusted consigliere from his days as London mayor. Lister quit as chief of staff this year. James Slack, his respected former communications chief, has left to join The Sun. Meanwhile, Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, and Dan Rosenfield, Johnson’s Chief of Staff, are new into their jobs and struggling to impose order.

So the PM is left with what Tory insiders call FoCs, Friends of Carrie – his influential wife. But they have little loyalty to the PM himself.

One Tory grandee says of recent criticism of Johnson’s governing style: ‘It’s a bit like his marital infidelity – it’s in the price. A lack of attention to detail is expected. But I tell you this latest shambles is one of the worst. If and when Boris’s popularity in the country goes – and it might – a few more episodes like this and he will be out.’

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