I’m never likely to be on the same page, politically speaking, as the bloke with the kimono and the baseball bat. But find myself nonetheless on one of his pages – or rather, one of those of his lawyers’.
My article was headlined: “Did the Treasury seek to punish dissident backbenchers by withholding cash from their seats?”
The application for judicial review is headed: “Alleged threats to deny funding from constituencies depending on vote of Owen Paterson MP amendment”.
The claim central to both is that Conservative backbenchers were threatened with the withdrawal of Towns Fund and Levelling-up Fund money if they didn’t voted for the so-called Leadsom amendment.
You will remember that this was the Government-backed proposal to postpone a vote on the Standards Committee’s recommendation that Paterson be suspended from the Commons for 30 days.
As I wrote, there is no doubt that – before the Paterson vote, please note – some MPs were told that Towns Fund or Levelling Up Fund money would be withdrawn from their seats only then to be told that it had been restored.
Treasury sources confirmed to me that in at least one case Steve Barclay said that money would be withdrawn and that Rishi Sunak then restored it. The original decision does not in itself imply improper conduct.
For there’s nothing necessarily wrong with such decisions if they’re made on objective, clear and defensible grounds. Were they made to punish backbenchers, that would of course be a very different matter.
“All in all, I can’t find any evidence of wrongdoing, at least yet,” I wrote in my piece. I’m not a lawyer. But unless Maugham knows something I don’t, I suspect this application will go the way of many of his previous ones.
All the same, were any MP to put the allegations raisd by either of us on the record, those claimed to be responsible for issuing threats would potentially be in very serious trouble, as I wrote last time round.