Paul Holmes’ Statement on Owen Paterson


It’s not immediately obvious that Eastleigh’s MP Paul Holmes even made a Statement on Owen Paterson because it’s tucked away in a dark corner of his website.

It seems appropriate to revisit his statement given that today’s North Shropshire by-election was only possible because he and the vast majority of Conservative MPs supported the government’s attempt to thwart the Parliamentary standards process. Let’s have a look…

“I do not support the lobbying activities that Owen Paterson undertook while working as an MP for two companies that he acts as a paid consultant for. This is expressly forbidden in the rules and it is right that he is punished.”

I think most people agree. I also think most MPs agree. I’m fairly certain most Conservative MPs, like Paul, would now publicly claim they agree as well.

I’m inclined to believe them, which makes it even more inexcusable that they allowed the motion to suspended Owen Paterson, who had been found guilty of corruption, for 30 days to be hijacked by the government.

Instead of passing the motion to suspended Owen Paterson, the motion was amended to politicise the standards process. Conservative MPs were told to support the amendment, whether they liked it or not, and the amendment passed.

“I did not vote for the ‘Leadsom Amendment’ which would have stopped Owen Paterson being punished”

It’s true that Paul did not vote for the amendment which did stop Owen Paterson being punished but he doesn’t say why.

Paul has a government job as PPS to Priti Patel. Angela Richardson lost a similar job for defying the government whip but, as far as I know, Paul did not lose his job. The most likely explanation is that he did not rebel; he just didn’t vote for some reason that was acceptable to the government.

“I did vote for a review into the Standards Regime which was encompassed in the second vote.”

Basically he just voted for the motion which was now to rip up the standards process instead of suspending Owen Paterson.

The alternative was for Paul to lose his PPS job, and it’s even possible that Eastleigh would have been punished as well, which would be even more appalling than Owen Paterson’s behaviour.

“I am pleased that the Government has now changed its mind and is proceeding with a review into the standards regime but in a more cross-party and collaborative way.”

I hope the review will look at why ministers like Priti Patel can break the rules and escape without punishment

The review also needs to examine the Ministerial Code and the conduct of the Prime Minister, as highlighted by Dawn Brent.

Finally, Paul makes some statements about his own employment…

“For the record, being the Member of Parliament for Eastleigh is the only job that I have and am remunerated for.”

He does also have a job as a PPS in addition to his constituency role, but that is unpaid.

“I do not have a second job and I do not earn any money from any paid consultancies.  This is reflected in my own register of interests which is a matter of public record.”

This one is a bit more puzzling because, well, that is not what is reflected in the public record!

15 hours per month for share options in the “Employment and earnings” section sounds like a second job to me!

He has since revealed more details of his second job on twitter…

“It’s a judging role for a fund to build housing for key workers and NHS workers”

The share options are a £5 discount on the listed share price of £5.50 per share.

Conservative MPs, including Paul, created this scandal themselves, but it’s telling who their anger was reserved for: not the person who broke the rules (Owen Paterson), or the one who tried to rewrite the rules (Boris Johnson).

No, apparently in a WhatsApp message to a group of new Tory MPs, Paul called Chope a “selfish twat” for not allowing the government to make the scandal go away without even a debate in Parliament.

I agree with Theresa May’s remarks in the debate which Chope was so selfish for forcing on Parliament:

“The attempt by honourable and right honourable members of this House, aided and abetted by the Government, under cover of reform of the process, effectively to clear his [Paterson’s] name, was misplaced, ill-judged and just plain wrong.”

Paul’s contribution to a more recent debate on Johnson’s (lack of) standards was even less impressive than his WhatsApp outburst…

“As a new Member of Parliament, Madam Deputy Speaker, I need to ask your advice. Is it acceptable in the House to use the word “liar”, and to accuse a Member of lying?”

He seems more interested in covering for the Prime Minister’s lies than having a debate on improving standards in public life. Ironically Paul seems to have missed the start of the debate where the usual rules that protect the Conservative leader from proper scrutiny had been suspended.

Perhaps he was too busy with one of his other jobs?

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Apathy


I’m finding it very difficult to get any enthusiasm for the election. Every day there’s another campaign leaflet to add to the pile…

…often more than one, but they just aren’t helping. (Two more arrived as soon as I took that photo!)

Going by the number of leaflets, you would think that the Lib Dems are the most keen for my vote with around 18 so far. Sadly most of them just put me off voting Lib Dem, and I’m still waiting for a reply to my letter to Chris Huhne.

If I was voting based on quality of campaign leaflet content, the Conservatives would be ahead by a nose. Only five from them but on the whole they are much more positive and go in to more detail. Entertainingly, their major negative streak is about the dire consequences of a hung parliament, which includes a claim that financial experts predict a fall in house prices. Excellent, a hung parliament is sounding better than ever, sign me up for some of that!

Labour have managed to deliver a grand total of zero leaflets. Well, saves me the effort of moving them from the letter box to the recycling bin. Have enough to fill that up already.

UKIP and the National Liberal Party (that name just reminds me of a scene from the Life of Brian!) are tied on one leaflet each. Plus we also got a random leaflet campaigning against a hung parliament. I had been planning to add leaflets to TheStraightChoice.org but with my new found apathy I haven’t got very far. I did add one scanned by a colleague after he got a leaflet from the only independent candidate standing in Eastleigh.

Perhaps all the campaign posters are supposed to get me more excited about voting. They tell me a huge amount about what the parties stand for don’t they? Still, there is some entertainment from the, ‘who moved my sign’ squabbles. I had thought that the Lib Dems were going to win the prize for most signs, with the Conservatives taking gold for largest surface area, but after the Lib Dem banner appeared on the M27, there’s still everything to play for. (I’d love to know what the local council would have to say if residents stuck up random signs the rest of the year. Perhaps we could all declare our favourite supermarkets to find out!)

All of this old style electioneering should be consigned to the history books by now with the dawn of the digital age. Elections 2.0 should enable candidates to really engage with voters. Early signs were promising, with four of my candidates having twitter accounts: @ChrisHuhne, @MariaHutchings, @LeoBarraclough and @raymondfinch. Sadly I wouldn’t recommend following any of them. Broadcast media seems to be more their cup of tea. (There is one local candidate who deserves an honourable mention for his Election 2.0 posters, not that I can vote for him unfortunately.)

In the past I have always been very keen that everyone should vote, but given the quality of the choices available I’m coming round to the idea that not voting may actually be the best option. (I do like the Nobody poster!) Some lucky people even get to vote for no candidate. In the end though, even if I don’t vote, I’ll be doing it in person; it’s not actually apathy, it’s lack of choice.

Is blindly sticking a cross on a bit of paper once every few years just an illusion of democracy? What do you think the chances of any real change are after Thursday? Whatever happens, the politicians are going to win.

Update: a couple of links that might help when deciding who to vote for: (5 May 2010)

  • Hedge End People have a General Election group and some of the candidates have responded to questions on local issues.
  • Unlikely to help the apathy, but this article has an interesting graphic view of where the parties stand, and how the three main parties have shifted over recent years.