On 3rd November 2021, the Conservative Party in the House of Commons sought to excuse one of their number, Owen Paterson MP from the punishment beating of a thirty day suspension from attendance at Parliament.
Thirty days of paid gardening leave at home in his constituency.
In other words, more time to spend with his various well paid private sector consultancies, amounting it has been estimated to at least £110,000 a year in total.
The sort of consultancies that helped him get into trouble with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in the first place.
Paterson’s MP’s salary is walking around money in comparison with his part time work, his foreigners, for the private sector.
Paterson, during the writing of this blog post, applied for the sinecure office of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, and he was appointed to that position by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Friday 5th November.
Consequently, Patterson will be leaving Parliament, much to the relief, I am sure, of both Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Paterson has said, “I will remain a public servant but outside the cruel world of politics.”
My heartfelt commiserations to whichever public or voluntary and community sector body, Paterson now applies for gainful employment.
A debate was held on Paterson’s case in the Commons on 3rd December and won by the Government.
The upshot of the vote being that the current system of Parliamentary standards that had ensnared Paterson after 18 months of investigation and deliberation was to be set aside and a committee formed to look into the whole matter raised by the miscarriage of natural justice, hereinafter to be referred to as the North Shropshire One.
The matter of the North Shropshire One was to be revisited after the committee had sat, deliberated and reported.
The Government was so concerned by the case of the North Shropshire One that, instead of letting the House come to the right decision about the fate of the North Shropshire One, it felt it necessary to put down a three line whip to ensure the result demanded by natural justice was not denied.
However, in the interests of natural justice, the Government whilst supporting the naming of the chair of the new committee as part of the vote for it so as to ensure the right sort of chap got the job, backed a few places on said committee going to some of the Opposition parties.
The Scottish National Party knowing that the outcome of the vote was a foregone conclusion made clear in the debate preceding it that they would not take up the place on the committee set aside for them.
Labour did not.
Pete Wishart MP, the SNP spokesman on Commons matters, remarked during the debate that he could not believe it when told the government would try to vote down the Owen Paterson report.
He said he thought only a few MPs would try this and he did not mind it, if the Commons was seen as “sleaze-ridden and crony-ridden”.
That benefited the SNP, he observed.
Wishart also stated, although the Andrea Leadsom amendment said the SNP should have a seat on the new committee, the SNP would “not serve on any kangaroo court … in order to do away with any independent process”.
Mere seconds after the result of the first vote was known, the story was spreading out over the Internet and the media were posting their reports and sending their Tweets.
Team Starmer, unlike the SNP, seem fitted for a more leisurely age pre New Labour as you will soon learn.
Alas, the year is not 1921, but 2021 and Labour is not delivering up copy for a couple of journalists and a gentleman from The Times for their only edition of the following day.
That a lie may travel halfway around the world whilst truth is putting on its shoes is even more true now in 2021 than it was in 1921.
Admittedly, a wee while after the result of the second vote was known …
… a senior Labour source said the Labour Party would not be taking up the places reserved for it on the new committee.
It was a quarter of an hour after that when Angela Rayner went on the record on Twitter to confirm the opinion of the source.
Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party whilst not having found the time to make a decision about a dead certainty before the debate about it started, had managed to find the time in his busy schedule to write a piece on the matter for the Guardian (posted on their website at 17:20).
Starmer’s comment piece was promoted on Twitter with all the skilful staff work that we have come to expect from the communications back-room boys and girls of Team Starmer.
If only there was an example in the public domain of how to do it effectively?
Meanwhile, whilst Starmer was sucking on his biro and consulting his focus group, sorry, muse, Team Starmer was preparing an advertising campaign with which to blitz Tory constituencies on the ground and from the air as well as engage with mainstream and social media.
Keen Westminster watchers will know that Team Starmer forbore from calling for the resignation of Matt Hancock earlier in the year, because Labour’s focus groups were against it.
The Right Reverend Matt Hancock MP for West Suffolk did resign as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, but not under pressure from the Official Opposition or his employer, Boris Johnson.
Although Johnson did, briefly, try to claim the credit for Hancock’s unforced resignation.
If you reading this blog post and know to whom these Labour ads refer; what he has done and how objectionable it is … then you are not the average voter with whom Labour needs to connect and make angry about the matter of the North Shropshire One.
Try and interest the mainstream media in a story without a human interest angle and they will only bite on a slow news day.
In our 24/7 world, such days are as rare as hen’s teeth.
It is their viewers, readers and listeners who crave human interest and that is why the media want you to give it to them.
Human interest gets people reading; listening and watching as does following the money, a sum of money to which folk may relate.
Paterson’s story is full of human interest; the money he made is specific and at £110,000 a year, a lot less than the price of most houses, an amount to which many folk may easily relate.
What was wrong with Labour saying Tom Randall’s mate, for example, was using his taxpayer funded job to make £110,000 a year on the side?
Almost sounds like someone scrounging off the taxpayer.
And, “One rule for them, another for you!” sounds more direct to me than “One rule for them, another for everyone else”. After all, most people do not share their screens with others when on social media.
New Labour would have been all over the case of the North Shropshire One like a rash.
“… above all, decide whether it’s about them or about us, about the people or about making us feel good about ourselves. If it’s about them, then winning is the top priority. That means a professional organisation, strategy, preparation, not deluding ourselves that belief in our own righteousness is enough.”
Whilst it may be comforting for some to think Team Starmer are capable of running a slick, on message media operation, but choose not to do so for fear of being associated with Blair and Mandelson, I am afraid that it may actually be that they are just bloody useless at it and unwilling to learn from past successful Labour methods of campaigning.