Boris Johnson insists 'UK is not a corrupt country' at COP26
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been forced to insist “the UK is not remotely a corrupt country” on the world stage at COP26.
At a press conference in Glasgow on Wednesday evening, Johnson was asked what he would say to “voters who are alarmed by headlines saying ‘Tory sleaze has returned’,” and was asked if he would apologise for the way his government has handled the furore around the Owen Paterson scandal.
The Prime Minister said: “Since we’re in an international context, and speaking before international colleagues, I want to say one thing which I hope is not taken in any chauvinistic spirit, but I genuinely believe that the UK is not remotely a corrupt country, and nor do I believe that our institutions are corrupt.
“We have a very, very tough system parliamentary democracy and scrutiny, and not least by the media, I think everybody can see that.
“I think what you’ve got is cases where, sadly, MPs have broken the rules in the past, they may be guilty of breaking the rules today, and what I want to see is them facing appropriate sanctions.”
The Prime Minister’s remarks follow a week of negative headlines for Johnson’s Conservative government, after Tory MP for North Shropshire, Owen Paterson, was found by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to have breached paid advocacy rules relating to his work lobbying on behalf of healthcare company Randox, and food processor Lynn's Country Foods Ltd - Randox was awarded two contracts worth £480m by the UK Government.
The subsequent attempt by Tory MPs to overturn the decision in Parliament, and overhaul the entire standards procedure, left Johnson fighting headlines accusing him of corruption, rather than praising the UK Government’s attempts to reach net-zero.
A report in The Sunday Times and Open Democracy also found that 15 of the last 16 Conservative Party treasurers have been offered a seat in the House of Lords after donating more than £3m to the party.
As well as addressing domestic issues, Johnson took the opportunity to call on world leaders to “pick up the phone” to their delegates at COP26, and give them the “margins” they need in order to strike a deal and “keep 1.5C alive”.
Johnson said: “I say to my fellow leaders, if you stood and applauded then [during the opening ceremony], you cannot now sit on your hands while the world asks you to act, because the world knows what a mess our planet is in.
“The world has heard leaders from every country and continent stand here and acknowledge the need for action, and the world will find it absolutely incomprehensible if we fail, and the backlash will be immense and it will be long lasting.
“Frankly, we will deserve their criticism and opprobrium.”
The Prime Minister’s call to arms comes after the UK published a first draft of the final climate agreement on Wednesday morning.
The draft agreement highlights the need to take action “this critical decade” in order to keep global warming as low as possible.
It also says countries must produce long-term plans on how they will meet the target by 2023.
The document calls on countries to “accelerate the phasing out” of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.
It also covers climate resilience measures and financing for developing countries who are most at risk to the effects of climate change, urging countries to “scale-up” their financial support.