You’re reading Reaction. To get Iain Martin’s weekly newsletter, columnists including Tim Marshall, full access to the site and invitations to member-exclusive events, become a member here. We’ll send you a free welcome gift – Andrew Roberts’ new biography of George III, worth £35.
Damning new allegations about former attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox’s lucrative second job are increasing the pressure on Boris Johnson.
The Times has unearthed a video of Cox participating in a British Virgin Island inquiry hearing in what appears to be his office in Westminster. During the Zoom call, Cox leaves for 15 minutes. “Forgive my absence during some of the morning, I’m afraid the bell went off,” he says. The bell being the division bell calling MPs to vote in the Chamber.
If it is confirmed he was taking part in the conference call, involving outside interests, from his parliamentary office, then that’s a straightforward breach of the rules.
Labour is calling for an investigation by the Standards Committee into a possible rule breach. But how many more MPs from all parties have quietly taken a Zoom call from their office that is related to their outside interests?
That is not all. According to the Daily Mail, Cox used the special coronavirus proxy voting rules the spring to fly 4,000 miles, before which non-essential foreign travel was not allowed. Adding insult to injury, the Daily Telegraph found that Cox has voted in person in parliament on just two days over a 13-month period.
Journalists turned up to his home in rural Devon last night, but Cox is not around because he is abroad.
Cox denies of any wrongdoing. In a statement, he insists he “regularly works 70-hour weeks” and gives “primary importance” to his constituency.
The next question is whether Number 10, the Tory chief whip and CCHQ press Cox to stand down as an MP, to avert a standards inquiry and make this latest row go away. Or will Cox himself just decide to stand down, triggering another by-election, so that he can make more money in the law as a top QC and avoid any more negative coverage?
Elsewhere, Andrew Bowie has handed in his resignation as Conservative Party vice-chairman over the botched bid to overhaul the sleaze rules. This was first reported by The Hound on Reaction.