Owen Paterson (65) has resigned from his position as an MP after a paid lobbying scandal. Instead of being tossed around by other government officials and the whole governing system, he decided to take the high road. The now-former MP for North Shropshire left office saying he would focus on his family and his suicide prevention charity.
Paterson served as an MP for 24 years, and this is very commendable since he is a cadre who dedicated most of his life to working for the British government. Last month, he was “found by parliament’s independent sleaze investigator to have broken lobbying rule during his £100,000-a-year private sector work”.
Because of the severe nature of these allegations, recommendations handed him a 30-day suspension from the House of Commons. But this decision faced backlash from Conservative MPs together with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He voted this week to remove the suspension, and in doing so, “parliament’s standards system was overhauled” [Source]. More drama followed in response to the government’s decision to save Paterson, and it was noted that overhauling parliament’s disciplinary processes was a mistake by the government as it tried to block Paterson’s suspension.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi commented on re-enacting Paterson’s suspension. He explained that “It was right to separate the two things out, that was the mistake, and I think it was right to reflect and return to parliament and correct that” [Source].
He added that “I think the mistake…is the conflation of creating a fairer system, with the right of appeal for parliamentarians to be able to put forward effectively an appeal process, and then conflating that with a particular case of Owen Paterson was a mistake”.
PM Johnson had lamented on the suspension and said it was a “very sad” situation to see a distinguished politician being stripped off his powers [Source]. This might be the reason why he was persuaded to defend him while defying parliament’s rules. But his efforts were all in vain since the “government performed a U-turn in the row on Thursday less than 15 hours later with the promise of a new vote on Mr. Paterson’s suspension”.
Amid these serious political moves, Paterson decided to hang his boots and exit without causing more damage or being dragged out by the law. “I have today, after consultation with my family, and with much sadness decided to resign as the MP for North Shropshire,” as noted by the outgoing MP. He added that “The last two years have been an indescribable nightmare for my family and me. My integrity, which I hold very dear, has been repeatedly and publicly questioned.”
Apologetically, he expressed his innocence by saying, “I maintain that I am totally innocent of what y have been accused of.” According to the Commons watchdog, Mr. Paterson “repeatedly used his privileged position” in aiding Randox’s and Lynn’s Country Foods’s operations. Randox is a clinical diagnostics company, while Lynn’s Country Foods focuses on meat processing and distribution. Mr. Paterson refuted the findings of the parliament’s sleaze watchdog and said he was “not guilty.”
In his resignation, he outlined his plans of prioritizing his family as he said, “At this difficult time, I will be stepping aside from my current consultancy work and to focus on my family and suicide prevention.”
He outlined that “Worst of all was seeing people, including MPs, publicly mock and deride Rose’s death and belittle our pain. My children have therefore asked me to leave politics altogether, for my sake as well as theirs” and added: “I agree with them. I do not want my wife’s memory and reputation to become a political football. Above all, I always put my family first”.
Mr. Paterson also tweeted that “Thank you to the many people who have sent their kind wishes to me and my family this week.” The PM responded to the resignation, saying that he did not understand why Paterson was leaving. He said, “I am very sad that Parliament will lose the services of Owen Paterson, who has been a friend and colleague of mine for decades.”
By leaving, Paterson might have sent a wrong message instead of proving his innocence. But assessing the reasons laid out by him, one can sympathize with him and applaud his decision to take care of his family rather than being a center of attention in British politics.