Newly elected Intelligence Committee Chair Dr Julian Lewis has Tory whip removed

15 July 2020, 20:17

Dr Julian lewis has had the Tory whip removed
Dr Julian lewis has had the Tory whip removed. Picture: UK Parliament

By Maddie Goodfellow

Newly elected Intelligence Committee Chair Dr Julian Lewis has had the Conservative Party whip removed after he allegedly "worked with Labour for his own advantage."

It comes after Boris Johnson's preferred candidate for chairmanship of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, Chris Grayling, missed out on the job after members elected Mr Lewis instead.

It means Mr Lewis is no longer a sitting Conservative MP in parliament.

Sources told Sky News the decision was taken after Mr Lewis “worked with Labour and other opposition parties for his own advantage”.

Dr Lewis is the New Forest East MP and the first ISC chair never to have held ministerial rank, though he chaired the Commons Defence Committee from 2015-19.

It has been reported that the Intelligence & Security Committee will meet again tomorrow and is expected to agree to publish the long awaited report on Russian involvement in UK politics next week.

Chris Grayling missed out on the job
Chris Grayling missed out on the job. Picture: PA

The Prime Minister's choice Mr Grayling had been expected to be chosen as the ISC chair, which is voted for by other committee members.

The committee currently has a large Tory majority, and Number 10 were counting on members to back their candidate.

However, Mr Grayling has faced a series of mishaps and problems during his time as justice and transport secretary, earning him the nickname "failing Grayling".

Concerns had previously been raised over the body's impartiality if Mr Grayling had taken the role.

Dr Lewis is the New Forest East MP and the first ISC chair never to have held ministerial rank, though he chaired the Commons Defence Committee from 2015-19.

The other Conservative committee members are Sir John Hayes, Mr Lewis, Mark Pritchard, and Theresa Villiers.

There are two Labour MPs - Kevan Jones and Dame Diana Johnson - plus Labour peer Lord West of Spithead.Stewart Hosie is the SNP's representative on the committee.

The committee was established in 1994, and has previously been chaired by a senior MP of the ruling party, including former foreign secretaries Margaret Beckett and Malcolm Rifkind and former defence secretary Tom King.

Downing Street previously declined to comment on reports that Tory MPs on the committee were being whipped to support Mr Grayling as chair.

A committee source said: "This was a secret ballot but clearly for him (Mr Grayling) to lose, some Tories decided not to vote for him."

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said Mr Johnson had appointed "yes men" to the ISC but "true to form, however, failing Grayling has been undone in his bid to be chair".

"I hope we now have a committee with real teeth that can hold this Government to account," he added.

"That starts by publishing the report into Russian interference of our democracy before the summer recess so MPs can scrutinise it fully."

On hearing the news, David Gauke, one of over a dozen politicians who had the whip removed last autumn for voting to avoid a no-deal Brexit, tweeted: "Well, this takes me back."

SNP MP Angus MacNeil also wrote: "We are in the world of psychopath politics... This is utterly jawdropping!"

Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader, wrote: "What a grubby shower they are."

While MP Jess Phillips added: "I see Number 10 are lashing out after forgetting the first rule of politics - learn to count."

Labour former frontbencher Chris Bryant said: "It's a momentous failure of intelligence when a PM takes months to handpick Intelligence and Security Committee members so as to deliver the Chair he wants and they refuse to do his bidding. To then chuck the new chairman out of the party is to lose control/the plot."

And Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy said: "Remarkable. It doesn't stop Julian being chair of committee or sympathy for him across house. It does make it more likely the long overdue report into Russian interference in our political system is published. A set of own goals of which even Sunderland would be proud ...."

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