Friday, July 15, 2022

We should thank Charles Moore for the fall of Boris Johnson

It seems we have a lot for which to thank Charles Moore. Because the cloud no bigger than a man's hand that presaged the fall of Boris Johnson was the Owen Paterson affair.

As Wikipedia records:
In October 2021, Paterson was found by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to have breached paid advocacy rules for making three approaches to the Food Standards Agency and four approaches to the Department for International Development in relation to Randox and seven approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Lynn's Country Foods. 
The Commissioner said Paterson had "repeatedly used his privileged position to benefit two companies for whom he was a paid consultant, and that this has brought the house into disrepute" and that "no previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of behaviour in failing to separate private and public interests". 
The Commons Select Committee on Standards recommended Paterson be suspended from the Commons for 30 sitting days.
When the motion to adopt the committee's recommendation was put to the Commons, Andrea Leadsom moved an amendment and Boris Johnson placed a three-line whip on Conservative MPs to support it.

The amendment merely noted the recommendations and set up a select committee to:
give recommendations on whether to give MPs a right of appeal similar to employees, whether to reconsider the case against Paterson, and how the standards rules should be revised to be "compatible with natural justice".
Thanks to the whip, the amendment was passed, though 13 Conservative MPs voted against it and 97 more abstained or contrived to be absent.

There followed an outcry in parliament and the press, with the opposition parties refusing to serve on the new select committee.

As Boris Johnson always does, Boris Johnson backed down. It was announced that the Commons would vote on the standards committee's recommendations after all. Faced with this and a possible recall petition in his North Shropshire constituency, Paterson resigned as an MP. 

Helen Morgan won the resultant by-election for the Liberal Democrats and Boris Johnson was sliding down a very slippery slope.

How did this disastrous idea of ignoring the standards committee get into Johnson's head?

Step forward Charles Moore.

Some say he bent Johnson's ear at a Garrick Club dinner which the prime minister had jetted home to attend. And it's certain Moore published an article on the "hounding of Owen Paterson" in the Telegraph.

But then Moore often does proffer doubtful advice. When William Hague resigned as Tory leader, Moore announced that his replacement should be David Trimble, then the leader of the Ulster Unionists. This, said Trimble, was such a shock to him that he nearly drove off the road when he heard Moore say it on the radio.

When it became clear that Trimble was a nonrunner, Moore came down in favour of Iain Duncan Smith instead. With hilarious consequences

Moore comes from a good Liberal family and there has always been an element of overcompensation about his tweedy, High Church Toryism. It often has little purchase on life as people live it in Britain today.

In his The Strange Death of Tory England - a title that could only have been chosen in 2005 - Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes of Moore's genteel removal from the editor's chair at the Daily Telegraph:
Moore himself said that he was sad to leave, although it meant that he could begin full-time work as Lady Thatcher's official biographer. He added forlornly that the Tories had "been up the creek, the whole time I've been editor"; it did not occur to him that there was any connection.

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