In the context of the tsunami of sleaze that has been coming at us over the past few weeks, the theyworkforyou.com website’s name has acquired some extra irony. It is also ironic that searching an MP’s voting record brings up this message:
Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon, was hampered rather more than most when it came to voting on the very many crucial issues that came up during the main Covid-19 lockdown. He was 4,000 miles away in the British Virgin Islands, trousering tidy fees for
“advising the tax haven in relation to corruption charges brought by the Foreign Office.”Guardian
So he was away during one the toughest periods for his constituents and the country, advising a foreign government in a case in which the prime minister of the BVI is accused of misgovernance and corruption. You really couldn’t make it up, could you? What he is doing isn’t illegal, but the optics? Maybe he was getting some practice in, perhaps, before assuming the same role for Boris Johnson when his ‘issues’ finally catch up with him in the courts?
Here’s James O’Brien:
It’s clear that Cox is capable of earning vast sums as a QC. In fact, one could argue that being an MP actually costs him money in lost opportunities for more lucrative work. Of course, that depends on how many hours he actually puts in his, ahem, first job as an MP and how accessible and responsive he is. Oh, and lest we forget, this is the same man who in 2015 “forgot” to declare £320,000 worth of earnings, though that same year he did remember to put in an expenses claim for a 49p carton of milk.
So, does Geoffrey Cox work in the best interests of the constituents of Torridge and West Devon?
“He’s very good on Zoom” , one wag responded to our researcher.
“I’m one of his constituents and have been informed by one of the minions in his office that he will be sure to pass the views expressed in my emails on to him. Presumably when he’s next in the country.” Said another.
He campaigned for Brexit, so farmers, fishermen and us shoppers can thank him for playing his part in the hit to local agriculture and fishing and rising food prices, not to mention the issues for tourism arising from staff shortages.
He toes the party line most of the time, voting for cuts to local government funding, cuts to corporation tax, stronger enforcement of immigration rules and against financial incentives for low carbon-emission electricity generation methods. So far, so Tory.
Does he work in the best interests of the nation and of democracy?
As Attorney General, he told the Prime Minister it was lawful to suspend Parliament – advice that 11 of the UK’s top judges destroyed in a landmark ruling and for that appalling advice he appears to have been rewarded with a knighthood (the compensation of choice for acts of loyalty to Johnson).
But he did stick his neck out against the Johnson and eurosceptic line, by stating that the government would comply with the Benn amendment to the European Withdrawal Act. This amendment would have forced Johnson to request a delay to Brexit in the event of there being no agreement with the EU in place by Oct 2019. And he accused the prime minister of doing “unconscionable” damage to Britain’s reputation with his crazy plans to tear up parts of the Brexit treaty with the European Union in September 2020. He does, therefore, have a rather mixed commitment to observing the rule and force of law.
Here is his verdict on the threatened breach by the internal Markets Bill:
“When the Queen’s minister gives his word, on her behalf, it should be axiomatic that he will keep it, even if the consequences are unpalatable. By doing so he pledges the faith, honour and credit of this nation and it diminishes the standing and reputation of Britain in the world if it should be seen to be otherwise.
No British minister should solemnly undertake to observe treaty obligations with his fingers crossed behind his back. The withdrawal agreement and its attendant Northern Ireland protocol represent treaty obligations of this country to which the government, in which I had the honour to serve as attorney-general, gave its solemn and binding word. It is, therefore, obliged to accept all the ordinary and foreseeable consequences of the implementation of that agreement.”
For this at times politically-inconvenient (and patchy) integrity, he is, apparently, much loathed by a number of fellow Brexiteers. Are they now getting their revenge? Or is this just more cover for Johnson, under investigation on multiple fronts and almost universally derided for running away from the debate on standards yesterday. It certainly looks like an orchestrated campaign. As one of our regular political commentators Sadie Parker commented:
“What Cox is doing [earning hundreds of thousands on his second job] is obscene, but unlike Paterson, he is not breaking any rules. HOWEVER, it’s most peculiar that it is Carrie’s ex (who still appears to be great friends with her) who began the briefing against Cox. Suddenly Johnson, Paterson and their corruption have been knocked off the top of the news cycle, and by discomfiting Cox, Johnson gets his own back for him refusing to endorse breaking the law in the Internal Markets Bill. Attorney Generals are supposed to give independent advice, but when Johnson fired him in March 2020, he said it was because he is not a team player — ie, he insisted on giving independent advice, which is anathema to Johnson when he doesn’t agree with it.”
Johnson is not a man who tolerates any kind of dissent. Perhaps he was just waiting until it appeared to be the perfect time to exercise his revenge?
Politics is rarely pretty and often dirty, but this government has managed to plumb depths of filth not seen before. How much longer will they get away with it?
Statement from Sir Geoffrey Cox, 10 November:
Sir Geoffrey Cox has practised as a Queen’s Counsel in the courts since well before his election in 2005. He is a leading barrister in England and makes no secret of his professional activities. He was asked to advise the Attorney General and the elected Government of BVI, a British Overseas Territory, in a public inquiry into whether corruption, abuse of office or other serious dishonesty may have taken place in recent years in the Virgin Islands and to carry out a review of its systems of government in preparation for that Inquiry. Prior to accepting the role, he sought and obtained the approval of the Office of the Attorney General of England and Wales that there would be no conflict of interest with his former role as Attorney General.
This is not to “defend” a tax haven or, as has been inaccurately reported, to defend any wrongdoing but to assist the public inquiry in getting to the truth. No evidence of tax evasion or personal corruption has been adduced before the Inquiry and if it had been, that person would have been required to seek their own representation.
Sir Geoffrey regularly works 70-hour weeks and always ensures that his casework on behalf of his constituents is given primary importance and fully carried out. Throughout this period, he continued to have online meetings with organisations, businesses and individuals within the constituency and it made no difference where he was for that purpose since it was not practicable or desirable at that time to meet face to face. As to the use of the proxy, prior to his visit to the BVI, he consulted the Chief Whip specifically on this issue and was advised that it was appropriate.
Sir Geoffrey’s view is that it is up to the electors of Torridge and West Devon whether or not they vote for someone who is a senior and distinguished professional in his field and who still practices that profession. That has been the consistent view of the local Conservative Association and although at every election his political opponents have sought to make a prominent issue of his professional practice, it has so far been the consistent view of the voters of Torridge and West Devon. Sir Geoffrey is very content to abide by their decision.
As for the allegation that he breached the parliamentary code of conduct on one occasion, on 14 September 2021, by being in his office while participating in an online hearing in the public inquiry and voting in the House of Commons, he understands that the matter has been referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner and he will fully cooperate with her investigation. He does not believe that he breached the rules but will of course accept the judgment of the Parliamentary Commissioner or of the Committee on the matter.”