Paisley survives dismissal vote - A good process worth copying

Democratic Unionist representative Ian Paisley has avoided the ignominy of being the first MP to lose his House of Commons seat under legislation — known as the petitions device — introduced after a parliamentary expenses scandal some years ago.

The North Antrim representative was banned from parliament for 30 sitting days because he did not declare two 2013 family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

A watchdog found that a year after the luxury holidays, Mr Paisley lobbied then prime minister David Cameron not to support a UN probe into alleged Sri Lankan human rights abuses.

From a south of the border perspective, the finding of misbehaviour may seem as irrelevant as Paisley’s survival but at a moment when Brexit talks are so delicately poised it is not. Paisley, and his party, despite the North’s vote to remain in the EU, are ardent Brexiteers.

Without their paid-for votes, Theresa May and the Conservative Party’s position would be even more precarious. No matter how this shabby affair is dressed up it seems another blow to the integrity of politics and, by extension, democracy.

There is, however, a silver lining. Paisley’s survival, for the moment anyway, makes it less easy for our parliament to reject the idea of a petitions device.

What might have been seen as a witchhunt opportunity can now be described as an extension of democracy. Don’t hold your breath though.

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