Good morning. The Tory sleaze news horror show shows no signs of abating, and there are two aspects to it that must be causing alarm in No 10. First, this isn’t just an obsession for papers on the left; papers on the right, that normally support the Conservatives, have embraced it with gusto. And, second, once a narrative like this gains traction (“Tory MPs are on the take”, to put it bluntly), then it becomes open season for the media, with all sorts of stories that in the past might have been ignored suddenly getting scrutiny because they now qualify as newsworthy. This story has reached that point.
Today’s papers are still full of revelations about Sir Geoffrey Cox. The Guardian focuses on the £6m he has earned from his legal work, the Daily Mail has done a similar calculation, while the Daily Mirror has a go at him for claiming for accommodation in London while at the same time renting out a flat he owns in the capital. But it is not just Cox who is in the news. Other Conservatives facing uncomfortable questions about second jobs include Julian Smith, the former Northern Ireland secretary (in the Guardian), Mark Pawsey (in City AM), Philip Dunne, a former defence minister (in the Times), and Alun Cairns, the former Welsh secretary (in the Times). It is not anything like as dire as the 2009 MPs’ expenses scandal, but there are some parallels.
This morning we have had a potentially significant intervention from Rishi Sunak, the chancellor. In interviews primarily about the growth figures (mildly disappointing), he said the government needs “to do better” on standards than it did last week. He told Sky News:
On the broader point and just reflecting over recent events, I think for us as a government, it’s fair to say that we need to do better than we did last week and we know that.
In one respect this is not surprising. Ministers have admitted that it was a mistake to get MPs to vote for the motion shelving the Owen Paterson report, and so of course the government has to do better. But, because they are coming from a cabinet minster who (at least until now) has not been implicated in controversy about sleaze or second jobs, and one seen as the favourite to be next PM, Sunak’s words also sound like an implied rebuke to Boris Johnson.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: NHS England publishes its latest waiting time figures.
Morning: Boris Johnson chairs what is set to be a lengthy meeting of cabinet. Originally they were planning a cabinet awayday at Chequers. The venue has been switched to Downing Street, but the agenda will be the same, focusing on levelling up, ahead of the publication of the levelling up white paper later this year. There will also be a political cabinet.
12pm: John Swinney, the deputy first minister, takes first minister’s questions in the Scottish parliament.
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