Tory sleaze: Boris Johnson ‘damaged’ by Paterson row, says polling guru Sir John Curtice
Paterson row has had major impact on Tory popularity says Curtice
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And the Prime Minister has been warned he must find a way to “move on” from allegations of Tory corruption in order to rediscover his mojo. Mr Paterson was initially handed a 30-day suspension in October after he was found by the cross-party Standards Committee to have committed an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules on behalf of two companies for which he was acting as a paid consultant.
The 65-year-old MP for North Shropshire denied the accusations against him, and MPs last week backed an amendment tabled by former minister Andrea Leadsom to lift his suspension, as well as calling for an overhaul of the system for disciplining MPs.
However, the decision was rapidly reversed after more than 100 Tory MPs abstained, with many privately admitting their dismay at the Government for pushing them into supporting it.
However, before a fresh vote could be held on Mr Paterson’s suspension, he opted to step down as an MP, issuing an angry statement about the “cruel world of politics”.
Sir John pointed to a total of four opinion polls published in the wake of Mr Paterson’s resignation, all of which showed a drop in Tory support of between two and three percent.
This has been damaging for Boris Johnson, there’s no doubt about that
Sir John Curtice
One, published by Ipsos MORI, based on interviews with 1,007 UK adults between October 29 and November 4, actually had Labour in the lead on 36 percent with the Tories on 35 percent – the first time this has happened since a YouGov survey in September.
Sir John said: “It isn’t a massive drop, but this has been damaging for Boris Johnson, there’s no doubt about that.
“Although let’s not forget the Tories already had problems before this. You had the fuel shortages for example.”
It was not the first time Mr Johnson had been criticised for his attitude towards the House of Commons either, Sir John said.
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For example, prior to the 2019 general election, he famously attempted to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament, prompting an ultimately successful legal challenge.
Sir John added: “What’s different this time is that I think he’s out of step with what a lot of people believe.
“In 2019, he was widely seen by Tories as taking steps to deliver what they wanted, namely Brexit.”
By contrast, there was no inbuilt support among Conservative voters for the right of Tory MPs to make money, Sir John stressed.
He explained: “I’m not talking about Red Wall voters here.
“But rather, traditional Tories, the ones who have always voted Conservative.
“There’s a tendency to believe in doing things ‘the right way’ and these people are critical of him over this.”
Sir John also suggested Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s attacks on the Prime Minister corruption were beginning to have an impact.
He said: “I think it’s just possible his points about Tory sleaze are just starting to hit home.”
The crucial thing now was whether the Government would be able to “move on from the story”, Sir John suggested.
He explained: “Alistair Campbell said if a story hangs around for more than two days you’re in trouble.
“This has not gone away yet.”
Tory MP Tobias Ellwood was among those who opted to abstain from the vote on the amendment, which was approved by 250 votes to 232.
He told Express.co.uk on Friday: ”As we saw with the vote, this felt deeply uncomfortable for the absolute majority of the party, which then begs another question about why wasn’t the whip’s office listened to you know from the quiet backbencher to the noisy, lively cabinet member.
”Everybody fed in their views and enough were loyal to the system to vote under duress, but everybody I know was deeply, deeply uncomfortable for this decision.”
Sir Keir Starmer claimed the episode indicated what he called the “corruption” at the heart of the Government.
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