Local Tory Party Sticks By Geoffrey Cox Despite Sleaze Accusations

John Gray, chair of the Torridge and West Devon Conservatives, said Cox was a "superb constituency MP” with an “astonishing work ethic".
Further pressure has built on the high-profile barrister after The Times released a video of him appearing to use his office in parliament to participate remotely in a legal hearing.
Further pressure has built on the high-profile barrister after The Times released a video of him appearing to use his office in parliament to participate remotely in a legal hearing.
Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Geoffrey Cox’s local Conservative association has vowed to stand by him despite accusations he breached parliament’s anti-sleaze rules.

Cox, the Tory MP for Torridge and West Devon, is under fire for earning £1million over the past 12 months to work as a lawyer for clients including the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which is subject to a corruption inquiry started by the Foreign Office.

The former attorney general has been criticised for travelling to the Caribbean to advise the BVI while being able to cast votes in the Commons by proxy during the coronavirus pandemic — leading to charges that he has not been focused on his constituents back home.

Further pressure has built on the high-profile barrister after The Times released a video of him appearing to use his office in Westminster to participate remotely in a legal hearing in September, in a possible breach of parliament’s rules.

Despite the backlash, John Gray, chair of the Torridge and West Devon Conservatives, told HuffPost UK that Cox had his “full support”.

He said Cox was a “superb constituency MP” with an “astonishing work ethic and valuable legal expertise”.

“The proof is in the pudding: when Geoffrey first came to this constituency it was a Liberal Democrat seat,” he said.

“Since winning the seat in 2005 Geoffrey has built an increased majority of 3,000 to almost 25,000 with a remarkable 60% vote share in 2019.

“This happened because of Geoffrey’s dogged commitment to serving his constituents. Time and again, constituents attending Geoffrey’s Saturday surgeries have found him a dedicated and powerful advocate.”

He continued: “His independent thinking, underpinned by his successful legal career, was very much to the country’s benefit during the challenging period surrounding the Brexit negotiations.

“I understand completely why people don’t want to see machine politicians and in Geoffrey Cox we have an MP who brings far wider expertise to the House.

“Sir Geoffrey has my full support.”

According to the code of conduct for MPs, members must use their taxpayer-funded offices and other resources “in support of their parliamentary duties”.

“It should not confer any undue personal or financial benefit on themselves or anyone else,” it states.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has written to Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone asking her to investigate. Cox has said he will co-operate with any possible investigation.

In her letter, Rayner said: “This appears to be an egregious, brazen breach of the rules. A Conservative MP using a taxpayer funded office in Parliament to work for a tax haven facing allegations of corruption is a slap in the face and an insult to British taxpayers.

“You can be an MP serving your constituents or a barrister working for a tax haven - you can’t be both and Boris Johnson needs to make his mind up as to which one Geoffrey Cox will be.”

Cox’s case is the latest headache for Boris Johnson, who is still suffering from the backlash caused by the botched attempt to overhaul the standards system after Tory MP Owen Paterson was found to have lobbied government on behalf of companies who were paying him.

Johnson was forced into a U-turn over a controversial plan to prevent Paterson from facing a 30-day commons suspension for breaching the rules. The row resulted in Paterson later quitting as an MP.

The Paterson affair has resulted in a heightened interest in MPs’ financial affairs outside of parliament, including whether MPs should be allowed to have second jobs.

And on Wednesday Scottish Tory MP and Conservative vice chairman Andrew Bowie said he would “take a step back” from the demands of his role to focus on his constituents.

A statement on behalf of Cox said: “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.”