Sir Keir Starmer claims Boris Johnson trying to undermine sleaze watchdog because of his own run-ins with it
The Labour leader claimed he was “angry” about the reputation of the country and that democracy was being “trashed” by the Prime Minister.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Sir Keir claimed Downing Street’s attempts to clear Mr Paterson despite being found to have breached lobbying rules was “corruption”.
He said: “Instead of upholding standards, he ordered his MPs to protect his mate and rip up the whole system – that is corrupt, it is contemptible and it’s not a one-off.
“When there was sleaze in the mid-1990s John Major rolled up his sleeves and he put in place the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life – so he was the prime minister who said I will clear this up.
“Boris Johnson is the Prime Minister who is leading his troops through the sewer – he’s up to his neck in this.
“I don’t think you or anybody else could with a straight face say this Prime Minister is the man to clean up politics and to have the highest standards in public life because he is in the sewer with his troops.”
Sir Keir also suggested Mr Johnson actively wanted to weaken the standards regime.
He explained: “There is a whiff that the Prime Minister would quite like the scrutiny and the standards to be weakened because they are looking too closely at him.
“If this is a one-off then you could view it in a particular way.
“But this is a Prime Minister with so many examples of him ignoring findings and the sense that he has had all of his life that there is ‘one rule for him and his mates and another rule for everybody else’ is still there, but at the top of government.”
Labour has now called for the Parliamentary Commissioner on Standards Kathryn Stone to examine the funding of Mr Johnson’s flat refurbishment.
Asked whether he was “playing politics” as the adviser on ministers’ interests had already examined the case, Sir Keir said: “It’s very important that these are drawn to the attention of the authorities and they look at them.”
Environment Secretary Mr Eustice earlier insisted the issue of the luxury Downing Street flat renovations had already been examined by Lord Geidt, and there was no need for Ms Stone to look at it.
He said: “It’s not her role to implement the ministerial code, it’s very much around parliamentary standards and MPs.
Issues around standards have dominated debate in Westminster after the Government sought to prevent former Cabinet minister Mr Paterson facing an immediate suspension over an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules, instead backing the creation of a Tory-led committee to look again at the case and overhaul the standards system.
Ministers backed down following a backlash, prompting Mr Paterson to quit the Commons.
Mr Eustice acknowledged the Government had “made a mistake” but told Sky News: “What we have seen is a Westminster storm in a teacup.”
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