‘Lots of people think we are in it completely up to our necks’: MP warns of consequences of Westminster scandals
A Welsh Labour MP has said he can’t remember a parliament that had so many criminal issues and warned that the public will have no faith in politicians as a result.
Chris Bryant MP for Rhondda and the chairman of the Commons standards committee, said that politicians have not behaved this poorly since the 2009 expenses scandal and claimed that the public think politicians are “in it up to our necks”.
Speaking to the Telegraph this weekend Mr Bryant warned that damage to public trust in politicians could see British politics become more polarised and could lead the UK to extreme choices between the far right and far left of the political spectrum.
Mr Bryant also speculated whether the recent spate of poor behaviour from MPs could be a result of working-from-home policies and the large number of new members resulting from the 2019 election.
Mr Bryant was commenting in the wake of weeks of scandal in Westminster which saw the Prime Minister and the Chancellor receiving what’s thought to be the first of a number of fines resulting from the ‘partygate’, and the triggering of a by election following a sexual assault conviction and subsequent resignation of Conservative MP Imran Ahmen Khan.
Mr Kahn’s resignation followed the departure of Mike Hill, a Labour MP who was found to have breached Parliament’s sexual misconduct policy, and allegations of sexual assault and drug-taking against David Warburton, a Conservative MP who is being investigated by the Tory whips’ office, claims which he denies.
Code of conduct
Boris Johnson is facing fresh accusations of organising a party in Downing Street which could lead to a fine of £10,000 and Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, is expected to allow MPs a vote to trigger a privileges committee investigation into whether Mr Johnson misled the Commons over the extent of lockdown parties in Downing Street and across Whitehall.
According to the Institute for Public Policy Research, trust in the honesty of politicians is at an all-time low. A poll published last week found that 75% of the public believed that Boris Johnson lied about breaking the law and the institute warns that the poll identifies a “collapse in public satisfaction with politicians and democracy”.
The Commons standards committee is currently drawing up a new code of conduct for MPs following concerns that the previous rules were out of date, and one of the issues they will tackle will be second jobs, following the lobbying scandal which led to the resignation of Owen Patterson.
“I just can’t remember a parliament that had so many criminal issues, let alone anything else,” the Labour MP told The Telegraph.
“I think it’s in danger of being worse than the expenses scandal. We’ve got to seize hold of the fact that lots of people think we are in it completely up to our necks.
“I don’t know whether Covid has made things worse,” he said. “There’s very little corporate memory around in Parliament because we’ve had such a big turnover of MPs.
“Every generation of MPs is a set of guardians for the reputation of Parliament, and all those shenanigans last year did a lot of damage to trust in Parliament.
“The danger is that you end up in a French situation where people are choosing between hard Left and Right because the people who offer the populist stances become the most palatable,” he said.
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