‘Anger and codeine’ led MP to swear at Owen Paterson over standards row

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Owen Paterson (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
Owen Paterson (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

A Conservative MP has admitted a mixture of “anger and codeine” led to him calling a colleague a “c***” in a row over standards.

Christian Wakeford, who was elected to Bury South in 2019, was reported to have sworn at former Tory MP for North Shropshire Owen Paterson during voting in Parliament earlier this month.

The incident highlighted the strength of feeling among Conservative backbenchers – especially those in the so-called Red Wall, many of whom have smaller majorities – over the standards row that has engulfed Westminster for nearly three weeks.

Christian Wakeford (House of Commons/PA)
Christian Wakeford (House of Commons/PA)

Appearing on Times Radio Mr Wakeford was asked if the report of him approaching Mr Paterson was correct.

“It is,” he said.

“And it’s been a mixture of quite a lot of anger and codeine. I clearly have a broken ankle at the moment, it’s not the best mix.

“But I do think it went to show the, I guess, the quantum of anger in the party and that’s still high now.

“But the fact that after all that kind of marching up the top of the hill, not once was there gratitude from Owen, not once was there, kind of, apologies or repentance.

“The fact he went out to the press and said ‘I will do exactly the same again’. I think I’m not the only one who would have wanted to use language of that nature to him.”

Mr Paterson resigned as an MP following a saga where he was initially found to have breached lobbying rules, and it was recommended he be suspended from the Commons for 30 sitting days.

However, a Government-backed amendment – which Tory MPs were whipped to support – passed, which would have delayed the suspension and ordered a review into his case and the wider standards system.

The Government performed a U-turn after a widespread outcry, and Mr Paterson resigned.

But the row has ignited a fresh focus on standards and sleaze in politics, which Mr Wakeford said those with smaller majorities such as his felt more keenly.

Mr Wakeford, whose majority is just 402, told Times Radio: “I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t focus on, probably a bit more than some would, as to what happens on a daily basis.

“I’m acutely aware by just looking at my inbox.”

He said: “I do take a different view to colleagues on certain issues, or I am more prone to being slightly rebellious as opposed to some of my colleagues because I need to reflect the view of my constituents and hopefully do what I need to, to make sure I’m returned whenever that election is.”

Mr Wakefield said that even though the language in the row over standards had been toned down, the sentiment was still there.

“We should never have been in a position of that nature”, he said.

“And whether it was or it wasn’t, it felt like we were trying to get him off the hook when actually he was bang to rights in the report, so that didn’t sit comfortably with a lot of colleagues.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the media regarding the United Kingdom’s Covid-19 infection rate. (Leon Neal/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the media regarding the United Kingdom’s Covid-19 infection rate. (Leon Neal/PA) (PA Wire)

The Prime Minister has reportedly admitted he “crashed the car into a ditch” in the row over standards at Westminster in the wake of the Paterson row but has refused to apologise publicly.

“On a clear day, I crashed the car into a ditch. I will get the car out of the ditch,” Mr Johnson reportedly told the gathering of the 1922 committee of backbench MPs on Wednesday, although on Thursday he appeared to distance himself from the comments.

On ITV News, it was put to Mr Johnson that “you have told colleagues you crashed the car, you’ve even said you had regrets”.

But Mr Johnson said: “I don’t think I actually used those words.”

Pressed five times on whether he would say “sorry”, Mr Johnson said: “I’ve said what I have to say”.

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