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Tory MPs share despair at PM’s top team over Commons vote in leaked WhatsApps

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The frustration and despair of Tory MPs felt towards Rishi Sunak’s top team is revealed in leaked WhatsApp messages obtained by Sky News.

One MP called the parliamentary operation a “shitshow” and “crazy”, while another said they were “at a loss” at the handling of a crunch Monday night vote on excluding MPs arrested on suspicion of serious sexual or violent offences.

They echo comments Tory MPs have made privately to Sky News.

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There is fury today among Tory MPs after most found themselves on the losing side of a vote on a Lib Dem and Labour motion to exclude any MP arrested for a serious offence from the parliamentary estate, which would bring Westminster into line with many other workplaces.

The bulk of Tory MPs backed a different plan – to exclude MPs at the point of charge, arguing that MPs could easily become the target of vexatious complaints.

It was a free vote, which meant MPs did not have to vote on party lines.

However, in a move that baffled Conservative MPs, when the Commons came to vote to overturn the opposition motion, the Tory whips did not put up “tellers” – vote counters – and so it could not be held, meaning the opposition motion passed.

This often happens because of disorganisation or confusion about events in the chamber, and often marks a failing of either the Tory whips or the Commons leader’s office – figures appointed by Mr Sunak.

The WhatsApps show a government minister – Anne Marie Trevelyan – summoning Tories after initially losing the Lib Dem vote: “Anyone on estate who didn’t vote on amendment O please return asap! Lost amend by one vote. Otherwise the decision is arrest Not charge.”

Other Tories – Jill Mortimer and Jack Brereton – add weight to the appeal to vote down the Lib Dem motion, as does minister Greg Hands.

Brendan Clarke-Smith calls the Lib Dem plan to exclude MPs from parliament on arrest “an attack on basic civil liberties”.

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However, Cambridgeshire MP Anthony Browne suddenly announces three minutes later: “Division off!”

There is incredulity with Pauline Latham demanding to know what has happened, adding: “This is crazy.”

Conservative MP Angela Richardson. Pic: House of Commons
Image:
Conservative MP Angela Richardson said the vote was a shitshow. Pic: House of Commons

Miriam Cates explains to colleagues there were no tellers, Angela Richardson says “what a shitshow!”, Andrea Leadsom says “A sad day”. Ms Cates says: “I am completely at a loss to understand why those of us who shouted ‘no’ were not told that there were no tellers” – indicating frustration with Mr Sunak’s parliamentary operation.

Mr Clarke-Smith says: “Angela better hope her interview goes well then. Unbelievable.” This is a reference to Angela Rayner, who is currently under police investigation and could be interviewed under caution in coming weeks. She denies all allegations and has not been arrested and Labour says this will not happen, but even if she were, she would not be excluded because the reason for arrest is unlikely to pass the serious offence test.

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The dialogue concludes with Mr Brereton saying: “We’re all going to be banned from the estate now…” and Ms Cates saying, “Watch the vexatious complaints roll in…”

One Tory said there was an “end of days vibe” in the Tory Party and the messages were evidence of a “meltdown” because the Tory whips can’t handle simple votes.

They too call it a “shitshow”.

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