Andrew Bowie insists resignation as Tory vice-chair not linked to No 10 sleaze row u-turn
WEST Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Tory MP Andrew Bowie has denied his resignation as vice-chair of the Conservatives is because of the sleaze scandal that engulfed his party last week.
In a statement issued this morning, he insisted he was stepping back from the role to concentrate on working for his constituents.
However, there was speculation among colleagues that he was quitting because he was unable to support Boris Johnson’s government after the fallout from the botched handling of the Owen Paterson affair.
“He doesn’t want to make a fuss but he’s unable to support the government after the events of recent days,” a friend of the MP told the Reaction website.
Bowie was first elected in 2017. He held on to the seat in 2019, seeing off a fierce contest from the SNP to hold on to the constituency at the last election by just 843 votes.
In a statement released this morning, Bowie said: "I was honoured to serve as vice-chair of the Conservative and Unionist Party.
“However, over the last few months, I have come to the decision that I need to take a step back from the demands of the role to focus on representing my constituents in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine.
“I formally asked the Party yesterday if I could step back from my position and I will remain in post until they have found a successor.”
Last week, No 10 whipped Tory MPs to back the reform of the Commons standards watchdog and block the suspension of former minister, Owen Paterson.
He’d been found to have broken Parliament's strict rules on lobbying by using his position as an MP to benefit two companies he was working for as an adviser, earning an extra £100,000 a year on top of his Commons salary.
The cross-party Standards Committee said he should be banned for six-week. Normally, this needs to approved by all MPs and is a formality, however, the government used its majority in the Commons to back a Tory amendment calling for reform of the disciplinary system, and a review of Paterson’s case, effectively blocking the suspension.
But, less than a day later, following an angry reaction from media, public and opposition MPs, Downing Street quickly u-turned on the plans.
Paterson, who insists he did nothing wrong, said he would stand down as an MP.
After the government's U-turn, a number of Tory MPs were furious at having backed the government only to be left dangling.
Bowie was once seen as a rising star of the party, quickly promoted by Theresa May, serving as he Parliamentary Private Secretary when she was Prime Minister.
Despite being fiercely loyal to Johnson he was snubbed by the Prime Minister in the recent reshuffle, with the government placing the businessman and Tory donor Malcolm Offord in the House of Lords and appointing him as a minister in the Scotland Office, bypassing the party's Scottish MPs.
Meanwhile, a former Tory attorney general has been referred to the Commons watchdog after appearing to use his parliamentary office to defend the British Virgin Islands in a corruption case brought by the UK government.
Sir Geoffrey Cox QC, has been paid more than £1 million in the past 12 months to work as a lawyer.
He was in the Caribbean in April, May and June this year to defend the BVI, while at the same time using procedures introduced during the pandemic to cast his ballot in the Commons by proxy while abroad.
A video of a hearing in September has emerged showing him participating remotely, from what appears to be his Commons office.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said that MPs should not be using their parliamentary offices for private work.
He told the BBC’s Today programme: “Look, as a general rule, no-one should be using things that are funded by the taxpayer, whether that’s your parliamentary office or whatever else for your personal gain in any way, as a general rule.
“I’m not talking about any particular case. Now, obviously someone might take a phone call or might use their own phone for a video meeting or something like that, wherever they are, but I think as a general rule that should not be happening.”