Regardless of our differences, I know you will have had a difficult couple of days. Defending the indefensible is not easy. I hope you are finding time to recover.
Your Cheltenham constituents have some questions about your opinions on the Owen Paterson case and parliamentary standards. I hope you’ll be able to consider these questions and provide detailed answers. As you know, accountability to local people is important.
- With regard to Owen Paterson’s breach of standards, do you agree with the position the government took at the division lobby on Wednesday or at the dispatch box on Thursday?
- With regard to general parliamentary standards, do you agree with the position the government took at the division lobby on Wednesday or at the dispatch box on Thursday?
- Do you agree that Owen Paterson broke the rules on parliamentary standards?
- As a lawyer, would you agree that it is grossly unjust to change the rules or procedures of an ongoing disciplinary case before the process is complete?
- The FT reports that Conservative MPs in marginal seats (like Cheltenham) were threatened with the withdrawal of campaign funding if they did not follow the whip on Wednesday. Were you subject to such a threat?
- It is reported widely in the media that many Conservative MPs made representations to the Prime Minister to urge him to reverse the decision to protect Owen Paterson from punishment. Did you make representations? If so, what did you say?
These questions reflect the concerns that local people are stating in conversations across Cheltenham. I trust that you will set out your answers in response.
If you are unable to respond, I’m available at your convenience to take part in a public debate on the important matter of standards in public life. Alternatively, you might consider holding another public Q&A session in Pittville Park to make clear your ‘red lines’. That approach was instructive in the past, even if those lines subsequently shifted according to the government’s position.
I look forward to hearing from you.