Six politicians who got caught breaking the rules in 2021

·5-min read
Owen Paterson (top left), Matt Hancock, Rob Roberts and Claudia Webbe
Owen Paterson (top left), Matt Hancock, Rob Roberts and Claudia Webbe

Lockdown parties, affairs and a very expensive flat renovation have all made the press this year as UK politicians continued their unfortunate habit of getting into more trouble than they should.

Scandals have ripped through the government in 2021, with Boris Johnson struggling to keep a lid on the sleaze spreading through his party.

Most recently, the Conservative Party and No 10 staff have been engulfed by a Christmas party scandal after a series of lockdown gatherings held in late 2020 came to light. The Met Police has so far said it is looking into the allegations, but has not launched an investigation. 

But there have been plenty of other scandals that have caused MPs to face some form of sanction or another. Here are some of the bigger ones from 2021:

Matt Hancock

The former Health Secretary, who was at the centre of the nation's response to the pandemic, resigned in June after photographs of him kissing advisor Gina Coladangelo were published by The Sun newspaper.

Their passionate embrace meant Hancock was breaking his own social distancing COVID rules, which infuriated many and led to calls to resign from within his own party.

Once one of the public faces of the pandemic, Hancock resigned when it was found he had broken his own Coronavirus rules. (PA)
Once one of the public faces of the pandemic, Hancock resigned when it was found he had broken his own Coronavirus rules. (PA)

While Boris Johnson initially supported the beleaguered Hancock, the MP for West Suffolk eventually quit his Cabinet post, with Sajid Javid taking up his former role.

It fuelled the fire of public opprobrium aimed at Hancock, who in February was found to have acted "unlawfully" over the handling of COVID contracts when he failed to publish the details of any new arrangements within 30 days of them being signed.

Owen Paterson

The former MP for North Shropshire resigned in November after being at the centre of a corruption scandal after he was found to have broken lobbying rules.

Paterson had lobbied the government on behalf of two companies that paid him £100,000 a year.

One of the companies, Randox, was awarded a £133 million contract for coronavirus testing without competition.

Watch: Owen Paterson: Boris Johnson finally admits Tory ex-minister at centre of sleaze row broke lobbying rules

The Standards Committee recommended he be suspended for 30 days, which he contested saying he had not been subject to a fair hearing.

The prime minister agreed with him and attempted to force through a retroactive rule change to exonerate his colleague.

The subsequent vote passed the Commons but was blasted as corrupt by the opposition and the press leading to the government abandoning it the next day. Paterson resigned soon after.

Rob Roberts

In May, the Conservative MP for Delyn was suspended from parliament for six weeks and had the whip withdrawn after being found guilty by The Independent Expert Panel of making unwelcome sexual advances towards a member of his staff.

In June 2020, it emerged Roberts had made “repeated and unwanted sexual advances” to the person who made the complaint.

The former staff member told BBC Wales Roberts repeatedly propositioned him and asked him to "be less alluring," which made him feel "uncomfortable."

Roberts apologised and said the "breach of trust" was "completely improper and should not have happened."

He managed to avoid facing a recall by-election by a loophole in the system and still sits as an independent MP, despite facing pressure to resign.

Claudia Webbe

The Labour MP for Leicester East was handed a 10-week sentence suspended for two years in November after being found guilty of harassing a friend of her boyfriend.

She was convicted after the court heard she threatened to leak naked images of the victim and made a string of phone calls in which she warned her to “get out of my relationship”.

Watch: Labour call on convicted MP Claudia Webbe to resign her seat

Webbe, who had denied the accusations, was expelled from the Labour Party after her conviction but still sits as an independent MP.

Margret Ferrier

The MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West was engulfed in scandal last year that dragged on into 2021.

In September 2020 she came down with COVID symptoms and took a test. While waiting for the result she visited a gym, beauty salon and gift shop before taking a train to London and speaking in the Commons.

That evening her test came back as positive, but she returned to Scotland by train the next morning.

After the scandal emerged the SNP withdrew the whip but she remains as a sitting MP.

In January this year, she was arrested and has since been charged with breaking COVID regulations, she has not yet entered a plea.

And finally....

The prime minister has been engulfed in multiple scandals in recent months, but has so far avoided any personal sanctions for any wrongdoing.

However, earlier this month, the PM's own flat refurbishment landed the Conservative Party with a £17K fine after the Electoral Commission ruled the party had not followed the law over donations by Tory donor Lord Brownlow to help cover the renovations

The report also raised questions about Johnson himself because it discussed evidence showing the PM had sent the peer a WhatsApp message in November 2020 “asking him to authorise further, at that stage unspecified, refurbishment works on the residence”, to which he agreed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, records an address to the nation at Downing Street, London, to provide an update on the booster vaccine programme. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Boris Johnson has denied knowing anything about the donor's funds used to renovate his flat. (PA)

Downing Street insisted Johnson had not lied to ministerial standards adviser Lord Geidt, despite telling him he had no knowledge of the payments until immediately prior to media reports in February 2021.

Lord Geidt has since demanded clarification from No 10 while Labour has called for the ministerial standards adviser to reopen his investigation.

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