Boris Johnson has admitted he could have handled the Owen Paterson scandal “better”, after noticing a decline in voter approval of his leadership and party.
It follows the prime minister’s attempt to overhaul the government’s watchdog in order to protect the former Tory MP from being suspended after he was found guilty of breaching lobbying rules – by receiving more than £100,000 a year from two companies he lobbied for.
Despite the government’s embarrassing U-turn, a recent poll placed Labour six points ahead of the Tories, whilst another survey saw Johnson’s approval rating at a record minus 21 per cent.
Speaking at a press conference today, Johnson said: “Of course, I think things could certainly have been handled better, let me put it that way, by me.”
The prime minister also highlighted his confidence in the standards boss: “I think the commissioner has a job to do and a huge amount of work to do, and she needs to get on and be allowed to do it.
“Whether the system is capable of improvement or not is a matter for the Standards Committee and for the House.”
But his MPs initially voted by 250 to 232, with a majority of 18, to approve an amendment to consider reforming the House of Commons standards system.
Tories were ordered not to back the cross-party Standards Committee’s call for the North Shropshire MP to be suspended from Parliament.
But, faced with a stinging backlash, the government U-turned on the measures, with Jacob Rees-Mogg admitting the move had “created a certain amount of controversy”.
The Commons leader said the vote had “conflated the individual case with the general concern” that there was not an appeals process for MPs unhappy with the punishment they faced.
Meanwhile, Rees-Mogg has been urged to resign after it emerged he may have not declared £6 million in personal loans from his Cayman Islands-linked company – after being “at the forefront” of defending Paterson.
#SackJacobReesMogg has been trending as the Tory politician has become the first Cabinet minister to be dragged into an outside interests row.
Anna Mikhailova, the journalist who broke the story, said he argued the money was used “primarily” to buy and refurbish his London townhouse.
But Mikhailova revealed Rees-Mogg would not say what the rest of the money was for, “despite repeated questions”.
Daily Mirror political correspondent Rachel Wearmouth warned the revelations will not “end well” for Rees-Mogg.
Wearmouth highlighted a Tory MP said Rees-Mogg should go – and reminded readers that the cabinet minister was “at the forefront of arguing for Owen Paterson” and for “ripping up standards rules”.
Her views were echoed by her editor Pippa Crerar, who said Rees-Mogg led the government’s recent attempts to rip up the Commons’ standards rules.