IN what is clearly a desperate bid to shut down a Conservative sleaze scandal that shows little sign of going away, it was reported this afternoon that Boris Johnson has written to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, proposing that the code of conduct for MPs be updated and that the new guidelines should ban MPs from acting as paid political consultants or lobbyists.

Johnson is now proposing that the code of conduct be updated to include that, "any outside activity undertaken by an MP, whether remunerated or unremunerated, should be within reasonable limits and should not prevent them from fully carrying out their range of duties," and that MPs should be banned from accepting work which provides services as "a Parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant, for example, advising on Parliamentary affairs or on how to influence Parliament and its members".

The scandal concerning Tory sleaze – or more accurately the most recent scandal – exploded into the news headlines after Conservative MP Owen Paterson was found to have been paid £100,000 to lobby ministers and officials on behalf of two companies. The lobbying was a clear breach of Parliamentary standards.

However, despite a lengthy and exhaustive investigation process which upheld the allegations against him, Paterson shows no contrition and continues to assert that he did nothing wrong. Employing the typical ploy of the Anglo-British nationalist who has been caught out, he insists that he's the real victim here.

After a Parliamentary investigation recommended that the veteran Tory MP should be punished by being suspended from the House for 30 days – a suspension which would trigger the start of a recall process which could have seen Paterson being recalled and forced to defend his seat in a by-election which would be politically difficult for the government – the Johnson government agreed with Paterson's assessment of himself as the victim and attempted to neuter the independent process by which allegations of impropriety against MPs are investigated. 

The political outcry which resulted is still rumbling on and is having a damaging effect on the Conservatives' standing in UK-wide opinion polling. Johnson's latest intervention has damage-limitation exercise written all over it. He is doing the minimum necessary to make this issue go away without changing anything fundamental.

The changes he is proposing won't prevent MPs like Geoffrey Cox or Jacob Rees-Mogg from raking in huge sums from their extra-curricular activities. Rees-Mogg is a partner in Somerset Capital Management, a US$6.8 billion hedge fund (more than £5bn) managed by a limited company in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven which is a British Overseas Territory. The Cayman Islands imposes no direct taxes whatsoever on companies registered there.

Cox continues as a partner in a legal firm amongst whose clients is that other tax haven and British Overseas Territory, the British Virgin Islands. Both Cox and Rees-Mogg will no doubt argue that their outside interests are "within reasonable limits" and do not prevent them from fully carrying out their range of duties as MPs. So that's OK then...

Neither do the changes alter anything about the way in which political parties are funded and certainly won't turn off the tap of dark money from which the Conservatives drink deeply. Nothing will change the ongoing insult to democracy that is the House of Lords.

Yet again we are seeing that very typical Westminster response to a scandal, a limited measure which purports to tackle the problem but which in fact does nothing much at all. But then the purpose of Johnson's intervention is not to tackle Tory sleaze – he is one of the sleaziest of them all. The purpose is to get the media to stop talking about it, and the right-wing press will doubtless be happy to oblige.

This piece is an extract from today's REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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