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Boris suffers sleaze row poll blow with his ratings plunging to worst EVER

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Ministers tried to play down the government’s sleaze shambles as a ‘storm in a teacup’ today despite Boris Johnson‘s ratings plunging to their worst ever level.

Environment Secretary George Eustice tried to settle the ship after the PM’s net approval rating slumped to minus 20 in the latest Opinium survey.

The Conservatives are now just one point ahead of Labour, with the advantage down four points following a week in which Mr Johnson’s bid to save ally Owen Paterson from punishment for lobbying humiliatingly collapsed.

The premier is braced for more pain tomorrow when MPs debate the standards meltdown, with Speaker Lindsay Hoyle expected to step in to defend the ‘integrity of parliament’. 

He is believed to be privately livid at the ‘arrogance’ displayed by the government, and is likely to back a review of the system in an effort to shore up confidence. 

There are predictions that a review will lead to MPs found guilty of financial misdemeanours being able to appeal to a retired judge – one of the Tories’ key demands in last week’s stormy exchanges in the House. 

But it could also look at whether MPs should still be able to earn thousands of pounds from outside interests on top of their Commons’ salary of £81,932. 

Yesterday former prime minister Sir John Major launched a blistering attack on the ‘shameful’ actions of Mr Johnson’s government, arguing that they were ‘perhaps politically corrupt’. 

But Mr Eustice said today that it is a ‘Westminster storm in a teacup’ and took a potshot at Sir John. ‘He’s wrong… I disagree with John Major on quite a few issues,’ he told Sky News. ‘He is not somebody whose cue I would normally take.’

He suggested that Mr Johnson deserved credit for not ‘throwing people under the bus for what you night judge to be, sort of, minor errors of judgment’. 

But Mr Eustice hinting at his own frustration saying the Paterson case ‘inevitably’ ended up getting conflated with calls for wider standards reform. 

He also admitted he is disappointed the issue has been heading the news agenda with the COP26 summit going on in Glasgow. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer has now written to the body that considers nominations for peerages to argue that Mr Paterson – who resigned from the Commons on Thursday – should not be granted an honour if Downing Street recommends him for one. 

Sir Keir also accused the PM of trying to undermine standards commissioner Kathryn Stone, amid claims that she has been given police protection after receiving death threats over the Paterson case.   

Boris Johnson

Owen Paterson

Boris Johnson (left) suffered a brutal poll blow today as his ratings plunged to their worst ever in the wake of the row over Owen Paterson’s (right) standards report  

The premier is braced for more pain tomorrow when MPs debate the standards meltdown, with Speaker Lindsay Hoyle expected to step in to defend the 'integrity of parliament'

The premier is braced for more pain tomorrow when MPs debate the standards meltdown, with Speaker Lindsay Hoyle expected to step in to defend the ‘integrity of parliament’

The scale of the damage was underlined again today with an Opinium poll for the Observer putting the Tories on 37 per cent, down three points on last week

The scale of the damage was underlined again today with an Opinium poll for the Observer putting the Tories on 37 per cent, down three points on last week

George Eustice (left at COP26 in Glasgow today) dismissed the row as a 'storm in a teacup'

Yesterday former prime minister Sir John Major launched a blistering attack on the 'shameful' actions of Mr Johnson's government, arguing that they were 'perhaps politically corrupt'

Yesterday former prime minister Sir John Major (right) launched a blistering attack on the ‘shameful’ actions of Mr Johnson’s government, arguing that they were ‘perhaps politically corrupt’. But George Eustice (left at COP26 in Glasgow today) dismissed the row as a ‘storm in a teacup’

Settling old scores? PM’s years of clashes with sleaze watchdog Kathryn Stone 

The debacle over the Owen Paterson report was far from the first time Boris Johnson has clashed with Commons standards commissioner Kathryn Stone. 

And their relationship is unlikely to get easier, as he could face another probe by the watchdog into the ‘Walpapergate’ controversy over refurbishment of his grace-and-favour flat – as well as his refusal to declare his recent ‘freebie’ Marbella holiday on the parliamentary register . 

Ms Stone has previously castigated the Prime Minister over a lavish £15,000 Caribbean holiday funded by Tory donors.

But he was saved from punishment – which could have included being the first serving premier to be suspended from the Commons, by MPs who overturned her ruling.

She has also pulled him up over an ‘over-casual attitude’ to declaring his own personal financial interests to Parliament, including a six-figure stake in an English country mansion.

Mr Johnson was dramatically cleared in the summer of breaking Commons rules over a ‘freebie’ trip to the millionaire’s playground of Mustique with Carrie – despite Ms Stone condemning his behaviour and the ‘unusual’ arrangements. 

The cross-party Standards Committee found the PM had made an ‘accurate and complete’ declaration about the holiday in December 2019, saying it was a donation from Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross even though the couple did not stay in his villa.

The committee – chaired by Labour MP Chris Bryant – overruled Ms Stone after she concluded that Mr Johnson did breach the Code of Conduct for MPs during a 15-month wrangle after initially failing to provide a full explanation, slamming him for ‘not showing the accountability required of those in public life’.

The report also suggested that the premier himself did not know exactly how the jaunt was being funded until after he arrived on Mustique and realised he was not staying in Mr Ross’s own property. 

In another looming tension, Ms Stone has revealed she will consider whether to launch an investigation into Mr Johnson’s conduct when Tory donors initially part-funded the lavish overhaul of his residence above No11 Downing Street.

Mr Johnson is also facing a backlash over refusing to declare his recent holiday to Lord Goldsmith’s luxury villa near Marbella on the Commons register.

The decision to use the ministerial register, which means he does not have to disclose the value of the gift, could be a further flashpoint with Ms Stone.

One Commons source told MailOnline that as the villa is owned by the Goldsmith family it cannot be treated solely as a gift from Lord Goldsmith – which could torpedo No10’s arguments against putting it on the MP register. 

The scale of the damage was underlined again today with an Opinium poll for the Observer putting the Tories on 37 per cent, down three points on last week.

Labour was up one point on 36 per cent, the Liberal Democrats up one on 9 per cent and the Greens down one on 6 per cent.

Mr Johnson’s net approval rating was down from minus 16 last week – with 30 per cent of those surveyed approving of the job he is doing and 50 per cent disapproving.

Sir Keir was minus nine, with 29 per cent approving and 37 per cent disapproving.

Mr Paterson quit after Mr Johnson abandoned a plan which would have seen his case – and the whole standards regime – reviewed by a Tory-led committee. 

Mr Eustice today acknowledged the Government had ‘made a mistake’ in wrapping Mr Paterson’s case with the wider system.

But he said: ‘What we have seen is a Westminster storm in a teacup.

‘Yes, we made a mistake in bringing that forward in the way that we did, so we withdrew it.

‘But the overall principle, that you should have due process and a right of appeal in these types of situations, I don’t think anybody doubts.’

Mr Eustice said the PM had displayed loyalty. ‘He doesn’t believe in throwing people under a bus for what you might judge to be, sort of, minor errors of judgement,’ he told Times Radio.

‘And you know, in that sense yes, he’s very different to someone like Tony Blair, who I think threw Peter Mandelson under the bus three times, for not much reason. 

‘And so I think he’s very loyal and doesn’t believe in being bounced into doing the wrong thing and treating people badly for the wrong reasons.’ 

But Mr Eustice said it was ‘highly unlikely’ Mr Paterson would join the House of Lords.

‘He’s been very clear that he wants to continue in public service but not in politics, he said. ‘He couldn’t have been clearer about that…

‘I think it’s highly unlikely that he’d return to the Lords.’ 

Sir Lindsay has authorised a three-hour emergency debate tomorrow, where opposition MPs are set to revisit questions about his lavish Downing Street flat overhaul and ‘freebie’ holiday in Spain.

The Speaker is ready to bring forward proposals for a review of the standards system, potentially led by retired clerks. 

A source close to the Speaker told the Sunday Times: ‘He has got to listen to what MPs are saying in tomorrow’s debate before taking decisive action. 

‘But he is clear he will have to step in to protect the integrity of parliament if no other solution is forthcoming.’

Mr Johnson is also facing a backlash over refusing to declare his recent holiday to Lord Goldsmith’s luxury villa near Marbella on the Commons register.

There are concerns the decision to use the ministerial register, means he does not have to disclose the value of the gift, could fuel an escalating spat with the Speaker over ministers failing to show respect for Parliament.

Sir Lindsay has repeatedly rebuked the government for making announcements in press conferences and interviews instead of coming to the Commons.

The Speaker tore into Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng last week for suggesting that standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson should resign.

One Commons source told MailOnline that if the villa was owned by the Goldsmith family it could not be treated solely as a gift from Lord Goldsmith – which could torpedo No10’s arguments against putting it on the MP register.

A source close to Ms Stone told the Sunday Times that she had received ‘awful threats’, and been accused of killing Mr Paterson’s wife, who committed suicide in June last year. 

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show after being released from Covid self-isolation, Sir Keir accused Mr Johnson of undermining Westminster’s sleaze watchdogs because of his own run-ins with the standards system.

The Labour leader said the PM was unable to clean up Westminster because he is ‘up to his neck in this’.

How John Major’s Tories were rocked by sleaze in the 1990s 

Former PM John Major launched a blistering attack on Boris Johnson over the sleaze miring the government yesterday.

But his own administration suffered huge damage from a series of scandals in the 1990s, before the Conservatives were routed by Tony Blair at the 1997 election.

Sir John left the door open for allegations of hypocrisy in 1993 when he launched a campaign promising to go ‘back to basics’, returning Britain to a more moral stance based on decency and respect for the law.

The drive became an object of ridicule over the following years as controversies erupted over extra-marital liaisons and paid lobbying. 

They included the cash-for-questions row that engulfed Neil Hamilton, and Jonathan Aitken’s ‘sword of truth’ libel battle with the Guardian.   

Ironically, news of Sir John’s own four-year affair with fellow minister Edwina Currie did not emerged until 2002.   

‘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.’

Sir Keir said: ‘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.’

He claimed the Prime Minister had a sense there is ‘one rule for him and his mates and another rule for everybody else’. 

In a further signs of Tory anger about the mess, ex-minister Caroline Nokes – a prominent critic of Mr Johnson – said the government’s behaviour ‘stinks’.

She wrote in the Sunday Mirror: ‘If my postbag is anything to go by, the public think the PM’s decision to circle his wagons and attack Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone well and truly stinks. And it does.’ 

Defence committee chair Tobias Ellwood said Mr Johnson risked ending up as ‘just another former occupant of No 10’ if he takes Parliament for granted.

Mr Ellwood wrote that testing times prompted the public to look to its Government to provide ‘leadership, statecraft and vision’.

‘A PM who takes Parliament for granted will achieve none of these things and simply end up, not as a big beast, but as just another former occupant of No 10,’ Mr Ellwood wrote in The Sun.

The senior Conservative, who was axed from the Government when Mr Johnson replaced Theresa May in July 2019, said: ‘This mess should be used as an opportunity to press the reset button on the entire Parliament-government relationship, then regroup. There is genuine rage within the ranks.

‘Constituents have been rightly appalled by what they have seen. One system for MPs, another for the public.’

It comes as Labour claimed there was a ‘cash for access culture’ in the Tory party following reports a series of donors who give the Tories £3 million and serve as the Conservative treasurer have been put forward for seats in the Lords.

Sir John said yesterday that a peerage for Mr Paterson would be ‘rather extraordinary’. 

:: Opinium surveyed 1,840 UK adults on November 5-6 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has written to the body that considers nominations for peerages to argue that Mr Paterson – who resigned from the Commons on Thursday – should not be granted an honour if Downing Street recommends him for one 

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg (left) and Chief Whip Mark Spencer (right) have been blamed for a 'disastrous strategy' over the standards system

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg (left) and Chief Whip Mark Spencer (right) have been blamed for a ‘disastrous strategy’ over the standards system

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