Geoffrey Cox earned thousands working a second job in the Caribbean during lockdown and people are furious

Geoffrey Cox earned thousands working a second job in the Caribbean during lockdown and people are furious

Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox is being called out as the latest alleged perpetrator of government sleaze and people are outraged.

The Daily Mail reported that the former attorney general has a second job advising the government in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) which saw him voting by proxy 4,000 miles away earlier this year due to coronavirus restrictions, while his constituents - along with the rest of the country - languished in lockdown.

Cox spent up to a month between April and May this year in the BVI working for Withers, an international law firm, the publication reported. He is representing the country amid a Foreign Office inquiry into whether there has been “corruption, abuse of office or other serious dishonesty that has taken place in public office in recent years”.

According to his register of interests, he has been paid almost £900,000 by Withers over the past year and received more than £130,000 for other legal work. Meanwhile, he earns £82,000 as a backbench MP.

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The news comes as the government continues to suffer the fall out from the Owen Paterson scandal - in which Boris Johnson’s Tories were forced to U-turn after facing a backlash for supporting the MP who had lobbied for two private companies.

It was just one of many sleaze crises the government has faced while being led by Johnson over the last two years, and given an increasing public interest in the matter, more are being revealed and parliament even had an emergency sleaze debate yesterday - which Johnson chose to duck out of.

Meanwhile, the MP has also declared a new contract for part-time work worth £400,000 a year with international legal services firm Consultant Global Counsel, the Mail reported. The contract is a renewal of a similar arrangement last year under which the company paid him £468,000 for 48 hours’ work a month.

With all this in mind, reacting to the news, people across the political spectrum were outraged:

After extensive press coverage about the story, Cox released a statement on his website defending his actions. It said that Cox “makes no secret of his professional activities” and that “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” before accepting the BVI position. He also consulted the Chief Whip.

“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,” it said.

“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.”

The statement added that Cox works hard to prioritise his constituents’ concerns and that it is up to his constituents to decide whether he had done anything wrong.

“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.

“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.”

But speaking about allegations that he breached the parliamentary code of conduct on one occasion by working for the BVI in his parliamentary office, the statement said:

“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.”

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