Rossendale Free Press
Voters won’t forget Tory bid to change the rules
LOOK, everyone makes mistakes. It’s how quickly they realise they’ve made a mistake and what they do about it which really matters.
So, when coming to write about the role of Rossendale MP Jake Berry and Hyndburn (and Haslingden) MP Sara Britcliffe in the sleaze row engulfing the Conservative Party, we should bear that in mind.
A week ago, backbench Tories, including the two who represent Rossenale, were ordered by their bosses to vote for the overhaul of the Standards system all
MPs are expected to work by, largely because Tory grandees didn’t like it.
In doing so, they also voted not to suspend senior Tory Owen Paterson, who had been found guilty of paid lobbying by the Standards Watchdog, as should be the case when such rulings are passed.
It stank to high heaven of the Conservatives trying to make up their own rules to suit their own end.
A week on, we don’t know why Mr Berry did vote the way he did.
We know all Tories were under pressure to vote as Mr Berry and Ms Britcliffe did, but they are both capable of free thought, so it would be good to know what Mr Berry was thinking.
Perhaps he thought it was a parliamentary process issue which wouldn’t attract attention outside of Westminster.
Maybe he thought generally, we wouldn’t care, trotting out the old line that voters care more about the NHS, about crime, about bins not being emptied than they do about one vote.
Perhaps he thought it’ll all be forgotten once the general election arrives in a couple of years.
If so, he was wrong, on all counts.
The vast majority of parliamentary life does indeed sail by un-noticed by local voters, but some issues cut through daily life and grab the attention of everyone.
This is one of those issues: “(Tory) MPs vote to change parliamentary rules to save colleague who broke rules” served only to confirm the worst suspicions people can hold.
It looks grubby and
smells bad and it’s remarkable that, a week on, we know little about why Mr Berry did what he did and what he thinks about what went on.
Of course, there’s lots of rumour and conjecture about what backbench Tory MPs were saying in the background and how angry they are at Boris Johnson for all of us.
That’s great, but we
are the people who vote for our MPs – we should know why they chose to embroil themselves in something which was always going to end up this way?
This will be an issue which comes to define this government, in the same way John Major’s is remembered for cash for questions.
The question of whether MPs should have second incomes is
a very real one.
Is £80,000 a year not enough to live off?
Indeed, the current register of interests shows that Mr Berry is paid £3,500 a month for 15-20 hours work advising global law firm Squire Patton Boggs - of £42,000 a year, on top of the job as an MP.
As Mr Berry’s register of interests notes, he sought guidance from Parliament before taking
on this role and there is no suggestion he did anything wrong.
But for neither Mr Berry nor Ms Britcliffe to see how bad it would look to back the throwing away of the rule book because their gaffer didn’t like it seems remarkably ill-judged and out of touch.