Was email that warned of blog attack the final straw for sleaze row MP’s tragic wife? Rose Paterson was told of article linking her to corruption allegations hours before taking her own life
It was most likely the last email Rose Paterson sent before taking her own life.
And it laid bare the utter despair and desolation the wife of Owen Paterson felt in those dark hours before she committed suicide.
In a reply to an email from her friend, the Tory peer Anne Jenkin, Mrs Paterson is understood have written: ‘Sometimes I just feel like I should go into the garden and never come back.’
She is also understood to have spoken of how all the ‘innuendo’ she was facing was depressing her.
Just a few hours later, in the early hours of June 24 last year, her body was found in woodland near their family home in Ellesmere, near Wrexham.
The fateful email exchange emerged after former Cabinet Minister Mr Paterson was forced to resign his Commons seat last week.
He stepped down after a botched attempt by Boris Johnson to suspend a damning standards verdict on the MP for flouting paid advocacy rules on behalf of two companies, Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods.
Pictured: Rose Patterson and Owen Paterson, Tory MP. who recently resigned. Mrs Paterson’s body was found hours after she received an email linking her to corruption allegations last year
The Prime Minister now faces a backlash from Tory MPs over his ‘calamitous’ lack of judgment in trying to undermine the Commons Standards Committee’s ruling.
Mr Paterson, who protested his innocence even as he quit what he called the ‘cruel world of politics’, has already blamed the manner of that standards inquiry for contributing to the suicide of his wife.
The shame and pressure of being caught up in a public scandal was thought to have been unbearable for Mrs Paterson, 63, the daughter of the fourth Viscount Ridley and a leading figure at the Jockey Club.
Close friends say Mr Paterson believes it was the email received from Lady Jenkin at around midnight that proved the final straw.
‘Owen thought it pushed Rose over the edge,’ one friend said.
In the email, Lady Jenkin – wife of Tory MP and Standards Committee member Sir Bernard Jenkin – is understood to have alerted her friend to an obscure blog linking Mrs Paterson to Randox, the company at the heart of her husband’s controversial outside interests.
The September inquest into Mrs Paterson’s death, which recorded a verdict of suicide, heard that she had left no final note for her loved ones but she had made internet searches on suicide methods three times before the tragedy.
Pictured: MP Bernard Jenkin and his wife Anne, who was a close friend of Mrs Paterson
The Mail on Sunday understands that the investigation following her death also uncovered the email exchange with Lady Jenkin.
Mr Paterson is then said to have asked the Tory peer whether, when she sent her email, she knew he was under investigation by the Commons Standards Commissioner for breaking rules on paid advocacy.
Lady Jenkin is said to have insisted that though her husband was a member of the Standards Committee, she had been unaware of the inquiry. Friends said that in messaging her friend, Lady Jenkin had just been alerting her to a ‘conspiracy theory’ that drew a link between her and Randox, sponsor of the Grand National at Aintree racecourse where Mrs Paterson was chairman. One ally of Lady Jenkin said: ‘Yes, Bernard is on the Standards Committee but the inquiry was being carried out by the Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone. Anne herself genuinely knew nothing about it.
‘Very few people did at that stage, as under the parliamentary rules then operating, not even Owen Paterson himself was allowed to say publicly that he was under investigation.’
A senior Tory MP said: ‘The enforced secrecy around the inquiry – with Owen unable to defend himself – was, of course, one of the things that put such pressure on the Paterson family.’
Owen Paterson (pictured) recently resigned after breaching lobbying rules in his party. Mr Paterson, who protested his innocence even as he quit what he called the ‘cruel world of politics’, has already blamed the manner of that standards inquiry for contributing to the suicide of his wife
However, others have pointed out the terrible – if entirely unintended – effect that Lady Jenkin’s email might have had on Mrs Paterson.
One friend said: ‘Sadly, it would have just worried Rose even more how she personally could be drawn into the wider scandal.’
The revelation of the email exchange has also revived a bitter internal Tory row over Sir Bernard’s decision not to take part in the crucial deliberations of the Standards Committee which resulted in the tough 30-day suspension that was handed down to Mr Paterson.
Critics claim that his withdrawal allowed more junior Tory members of the committee to be ‘bullied’ into handing down such a severe sentence.
The committee minutes record that after Sir Bernard declared that he was a ‘close personal friend’ of Mr Paterson and his wife ‘was a close personal friend of Mr Paterson’s late wife’, committee colleagues agreed that he should step aside.
But two senior Tory MPs suggested that ’embarrassment’ over his wife’s email was the real reason Sir Bernard had felt obliged to remove himself from the proceedings.
Last night, both Lady Jenkin and Sir Bernard declined to comment.Mr Paterson also declined to comment.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to set up standards rules review to heal Westminster’s bitter sleaze row
By Brendan Carlin and Anna Mikhailova for the Mail on Sunday
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is tomorrow set to launch a bid to heal Westminster’s bitter sleaze row.
He is considering proposing a review of the Commons’ standards procedures in the wake of the Owen Paterson scandal.
Sources said the review was likely to be set up in consultation with standards committee chairman, the Labour MP Chris Bryant.
But Commons insiders said the Speaker would only make up his mind after a scheduled three-hour debate on the sleaze row.
Last night there were predictions that a review would lead to MPs found guilty of financial misdemeanours being able to appeal to a retired judge – one of the Tories’ key demands in last week’s stormy exchanges in the House. There are also suggestions that the review could include looking at how MPs were allowed to earn thousands of pounds from outside interests on top of their Commons’ salary of £81,932.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (pictured) is tomorrow set to launch a bid to heal Westminster’s bitter sleaze row
In tomorrow’s debate Labour, Liberal and Tory MPs are expected to vent their fury at Boris Johnson’s failed bid to use the verdict on Mr Paterson to demand reforms of the standards system.
In a sign of Tory anger at being ordered to vote to suspend the Paterson verdict only for Mr Johnson to abandon the plan last week, Yorkshire MP Philip Davies sent a blistering protest to Tory Whips. He wrote: ‘Please don’t ever ask me to vote for anything ever again. I voted yesterday (as you know under protest) for something to support the party in a tough situation, and get abuse from my constituents for it, to then find the party overturns the decision.’
Adding to the controversy, last night the Tory Party was accused of abusing the honours system by offering seats in the Lords to a select group of multi-millionaire donors who give more than £3 million to the party.
An investigation by the Sunday Times and the Open Democracy website reported that wealthy benefactors appear to be guaranteed a peerage if they take on the temporary role of party treasurer and increase their donations beyond £3 million. In the past 20 years, all 16 of the party’s main treasurers – apart from the most recent, who stood down two months ago after donating £3.8 million – were offered a seat in the Lords, they reported.
Last night a Government spokesman said: ‘Peerages reflect long-standing contributions to civic life and also a willingness to further contribute to public life as a legislator in the Second Chamber.
‘It is wrong to criticise individuals being honoured just because they have also chosen to support or donate to a political party.’
The furious Red Wall Tory backlash that could kill off brigade of veteran Tory backbenchers who battled for Brexit dubbed The Spartans
By Glen Owen, Political Editor for the Mail on Sunday
It is being described in Westminster as ‘the end of the Spartans’ – the brigade of veteran Tory backbenchers who battled for Brexit and made Theresa May’s life a misery but ended up dying on the hill of Owen Paterson’s business interests.
But just as Spartan society collapsed in ancient Greece when it was sacked by the Visigoths in 396 AD, so the likes of former Cabinet Minister David Davis and Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg are facing the fury of the new generation of ‘Red Wall’ MPs: they are raging about the amount of political capital they spent trying to protect Mr Paterson from the consequences of breaching lobbying rules over his £500,000 of outside earnings.
Those close to Downing Street, where Boris Johnson’s allies were shaken by the scale of the uproar over the Paterson saga, predict that it will catalyse a generational changing of the guard within the parliamentary party. A source said: ‘They started with good intentions, but as so often with the Spartan MPs, it was ill-thought through and ultimately self-defeating. They have lost the confidence of the new generation in the Commons.’
‘The Spartans’ – a warrior class – was the name given to the most hardcore members of the European Research Group (ERG) who pressurised David Cameron into calling the EU referendum and then defied Mrs May over the Brexit deal she tried to negotiate with Brussels, securing a harder Brexit and helping to pave the way for Mr Johnson’s premiership.
The likes of former Cabinet Minister David Davis (pictured) and Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg are facing the fury of the new generation of ‘Red Wall’ MPs: they are raging about the amount of political capital they spent trying to protect Mr Paterson from the consequences of breaching lobbying rules over his £500,000 of outside earnings
In September, the core members met at the Carlton Club for a reunion dinner of smoked trout salad with boiled quail’s egg, capers and cucumber followed by lamb rump with confit peppers, sun-dried tomato and couscous.
There have been no such celebratory banquets following the events of last week, which have left the Prime Minister bruised and facing a by-election in the departing Paterson’s North Shropshire seat. MPs from the Red Wall seats – former Labour bastions which fell to the Tories for the first time in 2019 – have been exchanging bitter messages on their WhatsApp groups about the ‘arrogance’ of the Spartans and Mr Johnson’s failure to avert the disaster.
One member of the new intake, Bury South MP Christian Wakeford, is said to have called Paterson a c*** in the division lobby, while others spoke darkly about the Prime Minister having ‘lost’ the party.
In Government, blame for the fiasco is being placed at the feet of Mr Rees-Mogg, Chief Whip Mark Spencer and No 10 Political Secretary Declan Lyons.
Sources say that Mr Rees-Mogg acted as a ‘vector’ for the pressure from his fellow Spartans and by talking in emotional terms about the toll taken on Mr Paterson by his wife’s suicide.
In Government, blame for the fiasco is being placed at the feet of Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured), Chief Whip Mark Spencer and No 10 Political Secretary Declan Lyons
Despite the misgivings of a number of No 10 aides, including Chief of Staff Dan Rosenfield, Mr Lyons agreed that Mr Paterson’s suspension should be blocked – linked to a simultaneous overhaul of Parliament’s standards system – while Mr Spencer took the disastrous decision to whip it through the Commons and obtained the support of Mr Johnson, just back from a hectic round of appearances at the COP26 summit in Glasgow followed by a late-evening dinner with former colleagues from the pro-Paterson Daily Telegraph.
Labour then secured an easy political ‘win’ by refusing to back the proposed new standards committee.
A source said: ‘Spencer will never be trusted by MPs again. After this, how can they ever be sure that when he argues for a cause of action it is the right thing to do, and it won’t blow up in their faces?’ However, allies of Mr Spencer challenge the claim that he was gung-ho about forcing through the vote.
The chaos was seized upon by Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s former adviser and nemesis, who claimed that it was a pre-emptive strike against Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, in case she decides to join the Electoral Commission in investigating the use of Tory donors to fund the refurbishment of the Prime Minister’s Downing Street flat.
The saga has renewed familiar calls for ‘more grey hair’ in No 10 and the appointment of ‘a Willie Whitelaw figure’ – Margaret Thatcher’s seasoned Deputy – who can ‘horizon scan’ for problems and deter Mr Johnson from making any more ill-fated decisions.