Johnson’s handling of UK lobbying row is ‘shameful,’ says ex-UK PM

Former British Prime Minister John Major on Saturday blasted fellow Conservative Boris Johnson over the U.K. leader’s handling of a recent lobbying scandal, calling it “shameful.” 

Johnson has found himself in hot water after trying to change the U.K. parliament’s procedures to block the suspension of a Conservative MP, Owen Paterson, who was found to have broken lobbying rules. Johnson’s government quickly backtracked after a massive public outcry.

Speaking to the BBC, Major called the behavior “immensely damaging.”

“I think the way the government handled that was shameful, wrong and unworthy of this, or indeed any government,” said Major, who was prime minister from 1990 to 1997.

The incident began when the parliament’s standards watchdog recommended Paterson receive a 30-day suspension for breaking MP lobbying rules. It found Paterson had used his position as a lawmaker to lobby on behalf of two companies that paid him as a consultant. 

But Paterson pushed back against the findings and his allies began an effort to block the sanctions against him. Johnson then convinced MPs to support a move to toss out Paterson’s case and overhaul the regime for keeping parliamentarians in check.

Yet the prime minister changed course on Thursday following widespread anger. Later that day, Paterson resigned

“There’s a general whiff of ‘we are the masters now’ about their behavior,” Major told the BBC. “It has to stop, it has to stop soon.”

Major, a Conservative like Johnson, distanced the current prime minister from the party as he sees it.

“It seems to me, as a lifelong Conservative, that much of what they are doing is un-Conservative in its behavior,” Major said.

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