You can’t lose more credibility than this. Boris Johnson, distracted no doubt by glad handing world leaders at COP26 and his slap up dining with Telegraph grandees at the Garrick, arrived back at No 10 to find that he was swirling towards the black hole of political failure. His attempt to protect North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson from allegations of lobbying on behalf of his food industry paymasters failed. Big time.

Jacob Rees Mogg yesterday cancelled the review of loyal Tory MPs had voted for just hours before. Paterson, back on the hook and facing suspension, resigned.

Dominic Cummings once described Boris Johnson as “a shopping trolley smashing from one side of the aisle to the other”. It is a cruel irony that Owen Paterson was shopping in a supermarket when he learnt that the wheels had come off his political career.

Boris Johnson, who had hoped that COP26 would be his finest hour, has perhaps made the biggest mistake of his political career and even his fellow Tories are raging.

Johnson left it to Jacob Rees Mogg to smooth out the problems he had created by imposing a three-line whip on MPs to rescue. That rescue failed. Paterson resigned yesterday, or more technically will take up the position of steward of the Chiltern Hundreds or the of the Manor of Northstead, a procedure that is quaint and outdated as perhaps are the standards procedures in the Commons.

Rees Mogg was forced to address the Commons after a major backlash in yesterday morning’s media, including in the right leaning press. Wendy Chamberlain, Lib Dem MP for North East Fife, also secured an emergency debate which will be held next Monday.

Before the U-turn, many Tory MPs took to the airways to justify their vote in favour of the Andrea Leadsom amendment. One was my local MP, Philip Dunne, who condescendingly told our local radio station that people didn’t understand what the issues were (02:09). Admitting that the vote “looks bad”, he insisted the debacle should not undermine public confidence in MPs. Dunne could be right because public trust in politicians telling the truth was just 15% in 2020 according to Ipsos Mori. Doctors and nurses are in contrast score above 90%. When you are nearly at rock bottom in public trust, there is almost nowhere to fall.

Dunne and other MPs were rapidly over taken by events yesterday. Jacob Rees Mogg told the Commons:

“I am aware that last night’s vote has created a certain amount of controversy. It is important that standards in this House are done on a cross-party basis… Change would need to be supported on a cross-party basis, and that is clearly not the case… I fear last night’s debate conflated the individual case with the general concern. This link needs to be broken. Therefore, I and others will look to work on a cross-party basis to achieve improvements in our system for future cases.”

Rees Mogg asserted that the view of the house was that any changes should not be applied retrospectively. That meant that Owen Paterson was not off the hook and would face another Commons vote on suspension, one the government would not dare to whip after Wednesday’s debacle.

Paterson was not told Boris Johnson was ditch both him and the review before Rees-Mogg’s announcement. The BBC says he was shopping in a supermarket when a journalist broke the news, though the Telegraph suggests a call from the Tory Whip, Mark Spencer, alerted him. He quickly resigned.

This article was previously published on Lib Dem Voice.

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