Boris Johnson guilty of corruption of power
By Alper Ali Riza
Corruption, what corruption? Britain is not a corrupt country was Boris Johnson’s response to criticism that the government manipulated its huge parliamentary majority to save a colleague convicted of breaking the code prohibiting pressure on the government to obtain money.
Well, yes and no. There is obviously some corruption, especially in local government. Boris Johnson is probably not old enough to remember the Poulson scandal of the 1970s that prompted the resignation of a Tory Home Secretary due to his business association with John Poulson.
Poulson was convicted of bribery and corruption in the awarding of architectural contracts by local authorities in Yorkshire. His modus operandi was to employ former local government officials who then used influence and corruption, including bespoke hospitality, to secure contracts for his architectural firm.
Most recently, former Tory Prime Minister David Cameron went over the top with texts to cabinet ministers on behalf of a bankrupt billionaire financial firm Lex Greensill for whom he worked as a consultant.
There was also the case of Neil Hamilton, a renegade Tory MP, who allegedly accepted cash for questions on behalf of then Harrods owner Mohammad Al Fayed and accepted lavish hospitality at the Ritz de Paris, famous property of Fayed.
Like Jonathan Aitken and Jeffrey Archer, both conservative infidels, he sued the newspaper that made the allegation but withdrew its request shortly before trial. The result: disgrace and loss of his seat as Tory MP from Tatton, Cheshire to Martin Bell.
Now a UNICEF Ambassador, Bell was a former BBC war reporter who later became Mr. Clean. He has got into the habit of running against deputies accused of being sordid.
In his youth, Bell had been called to Cyprus during the 1957-1959 crisis. In 2011 he wrote End of Empire: A Soldier’s Story, a review of the British in Cyprus, and may resurface as Mr Clean. Who knows?
But conservatives do not have a monopoly on corruption and greed. Peter Mandelson had to resign as Tony Blair’s trade premier because of a home loan from Postmaster General Geoffrey Robinson, which he did not disclose in the interest register. Blair himself made millions after serving as Labor Prime Minister for ten years, although Blair’s activities were not strictly speaking corrupt as he left Parliament when he became a political consultant. Nonetheless, its lucrative international activities with unsavory regimes give the Labor Party a bad reputation.
All that being said, Johnson was misleading but correct in his claim that Britain is not a corrupt country if he meant that there was no culture of corruption in Britain. Corrupt countries are those where governments don’t do much without incentive – motivation in the lingo.
There are countries where the first question that litigants ask themselves about the judge appointed to hear their case is: does it take? Often in countries where corruption is rife, you have to take a small brown envelope containing the bribe of the public official you are going to see. This kind of corruption is relatively unknown in Britain.
But corruption can take many forms. The Bribery Act 2010 criminalizes bribing or being bribed by another person for financial or other benefit and includes offering or receiving lavish hospitality.
You pay a bribe if you offer an inducement to another person with the intent to perform it inappropriately or if you reward them for performing a function, usually of a public nature. It is also an offense to bribe foreign public officials with the intent to influence them to obtain or retain business or an advantage in the conduct of business.
However, you can also corrupt a political process if you abuse political power, even if it is not a criminal offense. It was this kind of corruption that Johnson committed and then retracted within 24 hours.
Johnson now accepts that Owen Patterson, who had been a cabinet minister, indeed engaged in paid advocacy as a Member of Parliament and was rightly convicted by the standards committee of breaking parliamentary rules against the lobbying for money for which he was suspended from Parliament for 30 days.
As often happens, the corruption of power by the government occurred in cover-up afterwards. Owen Paterson said he approached ministers and officials not as a paid consultant but as a whistleblower. His case was that the standards committee had unfairly dismissed his defense without a right of appeal.
With that, the government agreed to use its huge parliamentary majority to change the rules to get Owen Patterson off the hook. This was, however, a corruption of the parliamentary majority of the government because, under parliamentary convention, the rules of the standards committee require the participation of all parties and none were accepted.
The problem the government faced was that it was not supposed to use its parliamentary majority to change the rules on cross-party issues of internal parliamentary discipline to suit a member of its own party who allegedly broke the rules. It is true that the lack of an effective remedy against a finding of a violation is unfair, but the lack of remedy has been fraudulently used as a cover for devious purposes.
Apparently the motivation was that Paterson was going through a personal crisis over the death of his wife and needed a bit of a breather, but Johnson’s idea that the government could get away with changing the rules that require the support from all parties to help a colleague was not just a mistake. It was a classic corruption of power, even if it was done with compassion to help a grieving colleague.
The government was finally forced to do an about-face the next day and Owen Patterson resigned his seat. But it opened up a box of worms about second MP jobs. Apparently former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC made Â£ 1million from his bar practice, which is a great job if you can get it, but not if you’re an MP with a duty to take care of your constituents and not if you use your office in parliament for daytime work.
It was the time when Lawyer MPs moonlighted as MPs spending most of their time at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand or the Old Bailey, then in the Temple Chambers to collect the brief for the next day before walk along the embankment to the Parliament of Westminster. .
Alper Ali Riza is Queen’s Counsel in the UK and a part-time retired judge