Chaos in the Commons: Tories hit by bullying row during crunch vote after Home Secretary Braverman quits

19 October 2022, 19:25 | Updated: 20 October 2022, 06:31

In a nightmare day for the PM the Home Secretary quit, followed by the chief whip amid chaos over a vote on fracking
In a nightmare day for the PM the Home Secretary quit, followed by the chief whip amid chaos over a vote on fracking. Picture: Chris Bryant MP Twitter/Alamy

By Kit Heren

Chaos and claims of "bullying" in parliament on Wednesday evening during a crunch fracking vote have put Prime Minister Liz Truss under yet more pressure, following the resignation of her Home Secretary Suella Braverman earlier that day.

The Commons descended into scenes of carnage when the government tried to make MPs vote in line with its wishes to oppose a Labour motion on fracking.

There were calls for an investigation with Labour MP Chris Bryant saying shortly afterwards that he had a photo showing a Tory MP being "bullied" and "manhandled" into casting his vote against the motion.

Labour MP Anna McMorrin claimed that she "witnessed one Tory member in tears being manhandled into the lobby to vote against [Labour's] motion to continue the ban on fracking".

Conservative MP Sir Charles Walker called the incident "a disgrace".

"To be perfectly honest, this whole affair is inexcusable," he said.

"It is a pitiful reflection on the Conservative Parliamentary Party at every level and it reflects really badly obviously on the Government of the day.

"This is an absolute disgrace, as a Tory MP of 17 years who's never been a minister, who's got on with it loyally most of the time, I think it's a shambles and a disgrace. I think it is utterly appalling. I'm livid."

Chris Bryant called for an investigation into bullying
Chris Bryant called for an investigation into bullying. Picture: Getty

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mog said he did not see any bullying when the fracking vote took place in Parliament He told the PA news agency: "I didn't see any bullying. There were discussions going on, and there was a discussion about the vote that was taking place, and this was what normally goes on outside the division lobby.

"I heard one person swear and use an expletive."

Asked if he was confident he saw everything that happened, Mr Rees-Mogg said: "Nobody can claim they have seen everything, even Chris Bryant doesn't have omnisight if there is such a word."

The scenes in the lobby on Wednesday
The scenes in the lobby on Wednesday. Picture: Chris Bryant/Twitter

Downing Street said that chief whip Wendy Morton and the deputy Craig Whittaker had not resigned, after they were widely reported to have quit over the vote, in extraordinary scenes on Wednesday evening.

LBC's Westminster Editor Ben Kentish posted online: "Tory MPs are of the view that Chief Whip Wendy Morton and her deputy, Craig Whittaker, have both resigned." Mr Rees-Mogg later said he wasn't "entirely sure" what the situation with the whips was before the government confirmed both were still in their positions.

Mr Whittaker is alleged to have shouted as he left the voting lobby: “I am f***ing furious and I don’t give a f*** anymore,” according to the Guardian.

Tories created division in their own party where there didn't need to

Tory MPs were effectively being forced to prove their loyalty to Liz Truss in the crunch vote that could lead to fracking being banned again.

The motion, triggered by Labour, demands that time in the Commons be allocated to a bill that would ban shale gas extraction, just weeks after a moratorium was lifted by the PM.

A sizeable group of Tory MPs object to fracking because of environmental concerns and its unpopularity with their constituents.

MPs rejected the Labour motion to allocate Commons time to consider banning fracking by 230 votes to 326 - majority of 96. Some 40 Conservative MPs did not vote with the government.

The vote was designated by the Tory whips as a "confidence motion" in Liz Truss's Government.

Suella Braverman
Suella Braverman quit as Home Secretary on Wednesday, piling more pressure on Liz Truss. Picture: Getty

It comes after Suella Braverman quit the government, leaving the post of Home Secretary with a swipe at Liz Truss, who pulled out of a planned visit today without giving a reason as she struggles to save her premiership.

Ms Braverman had been Home Secretary for just six weeks but has now left government. She has been replaced by Grant Shapps, from the centre of the party.

In a resignation letter, Ms Braverman wrote: “Earlier today, I sent an official document from my personal email to a trusted parliamentary colleague as part of policy engagement, and with the aim of garnering government support for government policy on migration.

“This constitutes a technical infringement of the rules. As you know the document was a draft Written Ministerial Statement about migration, due for publication imminently

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“Much of it had already been briefed to MPs. Nevertheless it is right for me to go.”

She added: “The business of government relies upon people accepting responsibility for their mistakes.

“Pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can’t see that we have made them, and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics.“I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign.”

'Something that Suella Braverman wanted to do anyway.'

“I have concerns about the direction of this government.

“Not only have we broken key pledges that we were promised to our voters, but I have had serious concerns about this Government’s commitment to honouring manifesto commitments, such as reducing overall migration numbers and stopping illegal migration, particularly the dangerous small boats crossings.

"A source told LBC: “It’s been an absolute s**t show.”

PM Liz Truss replied in a letter to Suella Braverman: “I accept your resignation and respect the decision you have made. “It is important that the Ministerial Code is upheld and that Cabinet confidentiality is respected.

“Your time in office has been marked by your steadfast commitment to keeping the British people safe. You oversaw the largest ever ceremonial policing operation, when thousands of officers were deployed from forces across the United Kingdom to ensure the safety of the Royal Family and all those who gathered in mourning for her late Majesty The Queen.

“I am also grateful for your previous work as Attorney General as my Cabinet colleague and in particular your work on the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.“I look forward to working with you in the future and wish you all the best.”

Pressure continues to mount on Ms Truss, with a former Brexit minister joining those calling for her to quit on Wednesday.

Lord Frost said: "As Suella Braverman made so clear this afternoon, the Government is implementing neither the programme Liz Truss originally advocated nor the 2019 manifesto. It is going in a completely different direction," the Conservative peer, who backed Ms Truss to be Prime Minister, wrote in The Telegraph.

"There is no shred of a mandate for this. It's only happening because the Truss Government messed things up more badly than anyone could have imagined ... Something has to give".

Paul Goodman, the editor of the iConservativeHome website, said he had never "never seen anything like the chaos" of Wednesday.

"I have to say if you're looking for a coalition of chaos, Liz Truss is a one woman coalition of chaos," he told BBC Two's Newsnight.