Rob Roberts’s office has officially denied that the vandalism attack against his constituency office was targeted. According to the office, CCTV footage from the over the weekend shows men fighting near the office before kicking and smashing the office door. Several other businesses were allegedly vandalised during the fight…
Rob Roberts – the recently disgraced MP for Delyn – posted on Facebook that the crime had been “reported to the police”, and “criminal damage is NOT acceptable [and] the actions [of the vandals] are reckless and dangerous”. Rob’s one MP who is happy that there’s CCTV at their office…
It seems like the chances of forcing a by-election in Delyn to depose disgraced MP Rob Roberts are now approaching nil. At Commons’ leader questions this morning, Jacob Rees-Mogg was once again forced to rely on asking Roberts to do the decent thing and resign, after a procedural loophole meant his six-week suspension wasn’t greeted by an automatic recall petition. Responding to the ongoing standards crisis, Thangam Debbonaire told the press:
“To be suspended from the House for six weeks but not automatically be subject to the Recall Act shows the system is not fit for purpose, nor offering adequate protection and support for staff.
“This MP should do the decent thing and resign. But for as long as the Government leave the loophole in place, they are aiding and abetting his evasive strategy. Labour will use every device available to Parliament to close the loophole.”
On Monday, the House of Commons Commission met to discuss the Rob Roberts problem. Whilst Rees-Mogg remains committed to closing the loophole – preferably via a non-legislative route – Guido understands any attempts to apply retrospective measures are a non-starter, given fears it would undermine the independence of the Independent Expert Panel – something seen as essential for achieving long-lasting culture change. Staffers can now look forward to the return of Rob Roberts in two weeks’ time…
Robert Jenrick joins Jacob Rees-Mogg, saying it “would be better” if Rob Roberts MP resigned:
“so that the byelection can be called and somebody better able to represent that part of the country can be elected.”
While Rob Roberts was out on the town last night, commiserating the first night of his six-week parliamentary suspension, Westminster was actively trying to search for a way to force a by-election. Guido hears the most straightforward route currently being explored involves the Standards Commissioner writing a new report to supplement the Independent Expert Panel’s, endorsing its findings and thereby being able to recommend a recall petition. Moves are also afoot by staffers to let Rees-Mogg know the widespread concerns should Roberts be able to remain an MP. Though certainly not guaranteed, there is still a chance of a by-election…
In other Rob Roberts news, twice this week The Times has alluded to a nickname for the scandal-ridden MP being used in the Tory whips’ office, which “Red Box would disclose but for reasons of taste”. Guido thought co-conspirators might be interested to learn the moniker: Arse Arsehole.
A loophole in the MP complaints system may see Rob Roberts avoid a by-election – despite his whopping 6-week suspension. Suspension judgments greater than 10 sitting days – handed down from the Standards Commissioner – entitle an MP’s constituents to initiate a recall petition; if it hits a 10% threshold, a by-election would have to be held. Yet because the ruling came from the newly-established Independent Expert Panel, Rob Roberts’ suspension will not entitle his constituents to this right. The IEP was only established in 2020 – this is the first ruling against an MP by it, thereby explaining why the loophole’s only just been noticed.
Various senior ministers have indicated moves are afoot to close this loophole, though it may not come in time to see Roberts sacked by his voters. There are also concerns that retrospective changes to target one individual may not go down well. Retrospective legislation is rightly seen as bad law. The government has said Jacob Rees-Mogg will “invite relevant bodies to consider whether any changes could be made in future to the process to enable recall to be triggered.” The phrasing “in future” make Mogg’s orthodox view clear.
This morning Grant Shapps said he agreed “this loophole does need to be closed”, and at PMQs Boris said he would “take that point very seriously” when asked by a Welsh Labour MP whether the government would introduce emergency measures to close the loophole. It sounds like MPs are to vote on Roberts’ suspension tomorrow morning.
Roberts tells the 109 WhatsApp group chat of 2019 intake Tory MPs:
“Good morning all.
I no longer have the Conservative Whip therefore it would seem to be appropriate to leave the group until such a time as it is restored. I wouldn’t want to put anyone else in the position of having to explain why we’re still in a group together, albeit not an official party one.
Guido has approached the Tories for comment.
UPDATE: Fellow Tory MPs circle in to support Roberts, with James Sunderland saying he is “one of us”
UPDATE II: Tory spokesperson confirms the whip has been removed and apologise to the victim
“We would like to apologise to the individual concerned for the inappropriate and unwarranted treatment they were subjected to by someone in a position of authority.
“There is no place for the behaviour they were subjected to and we praise their courage in coming forward.
“In light of the outcome of the Standards investigation Rob Roberts MP has had the Conservative Party Whip suspended”
His membership of the party itself is also now under review…