Independents now outnumber Lib Dems after Andrew Bridgen loses Tory whip

There are now 15 independent MPs in Parliament, all of whom have been suspended from their former parties.

Christopher McKeon
Wednesday 11 January 2023 14:09 GMT
Andrew Bridgen has been stripped of the Conservative whip following comments comparing the Covid vaccine to the Holocaust (Beresford Hodge/PA)
Andrew Bridgen has been stripped of the Conservative whip following comments comparing the Covid vaccine to the Holocaust (Beresford Hodge/PA) (PA Archive)

The decision to suspend the Conservative whip from Andrew Bridgen means there are now 15 independent MPs in the Commons, one more than the number of Liberal Democrats.

Seven of those MPs were formerly Labour members, while six used to be Conservatives. The SNP and Plaid Cymru have both suspended the whip from one of their members.

Most independent members continue to vote in line with their former parties.

Below is a list of those independent MPs and the reasons they lost their party whips.

– Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire)

Andrew Bridgen had the Conservative whip suspended on Wednesday after he tweeted comments comparing the Covid vaccine to the Holocaust. Tory chief whip Simon Hart said Mr Bridgen had “crossed a line, causing great offence in the process”.

– Nick Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne East)

Long-serving Labour MP and former chief whip Nick Brown lost the whip in September 2022 pending the outcome of an internal investigation into a complaint against him. The nature of the complaint has not been made public.

– Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North)

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had the whip removed and was suspended by the party in 2020 after responding to a highly critical report on antisemitism within the party by saying the scale of the problem had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.

He subsequently had his party membership reinstated and attempted to clarify his comments by saying concerns about antisemitism are “neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated’”.

However, current Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has refused to readmit him to the ranks.

– Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark)

Labour suspended the whip from Neil Coyle in February 2022 over allegations that he made racist comments to a journalist in Parliament’s Strangers’ Bar.

– Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr)

Plaid Cymru withdrew the whip from Jonathan Edwards in May 2020 after the MP was arrested on suspicion of assault. He later accepted a police caution for assaulting his wife.

In August 2022, Plaid Cymru said it would readmit Mr Edwards to its Westminster group, but the MP chose to remain an independent after his wife denounced the decision, saying this would allow a “period of calm reflection”.

– Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West)

Margaret Ferrier was suspended by the SNP in October 2020 after it emerged she had broken lockdown rules by travelling to and from London to attend Parliament despite experiencing Covid-19 symptoms and later testing positive for the virus.

In August 2022, Ms Ferrier admitted breaking Covid rules and a month later was ordered to complete 270 hours of community payback by a court in Glasgow. She remains under investigation by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.

– Matt Hancock (West Suffolk)

Former health secretary Matt Hancock was stripped of the Conservative whip in November 2022 after announcing he had flown to Australia to appear on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! despite Parliament being in session.

Mr Hancock subsequently announced his intention to stand down as an MP at the next election.

– Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton)

Rupa Huq was suspended by Labour during the party’s annual conference in September 2022 after she described then-chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng as “superficially” black.

She subsequently apologised for her comments, described by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as “racist”, but has not been readmitted to the parliamentary party.

– Julian Knight (Solihull)

Senior Tory Julian Knight had the whip suspended in December 2022 after it emerged that he was the subject of an allegation of serious sexual assault reported to the Metropolitan Police.

Mr Knight has not been arrested in connection with the allegation, and said the decision to remove the whip had “stripped me of the rights to anonymity or a fair hearing”. He denies any wrongdoing.

– Conor McGinn (St Helens North)

Labour suspended Conor McGinn in December 2022 pending an internal party investigation into a complaint against him. The nature of the complaint has not been made public.

– Chris Pincher (Tamworth)

Chris Pincher lost the Conservative whip in July 2022, the day after he resigned as deputy chief whip following allegations that he had groped two men at the Carlton Club in London the previous evening.

The fallout from the incident led to Boris Johnson’s resignation as prime minister a week later.

Mr Pincher remains an MP, and is currently under investigation by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner for “actions causing significant damage to the reputation of the House as a whole, or of its Members generally”.

– Christina Rees (Neath)

Labour suspended Christina Rees from the party in October 2022 following allegations of bullying. The Guardian reported that the complaints were made by staff in her South Wales constituency.

– Rob Roberts (Delyn)

Rob Roberts was suspended by the Conservatives in May 2021 after parliamentary authorities found he had made repeated and unwanted advances towards a member of staff.

Mr Roberts apologised for his actions and was suspended from the Commons for six weeks, with several MPs urging him to resign.

– David Warburton (Somerton and Frome)

The Conservatives removed the whip from David Warburton in April 2022 after the Sunday Times reported that allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use had been made against him.

He is said to deny any wrongdoing.

– Claudia Webbe (Leicester East)

Claudia Webbe has sat as an independent since September 2020, when she lost the whip after being charged with harassment.

She was convicted of the offence a year later and given a suspended 10-week prison sentence and ordered to do 200 hours of community service.

In May 2022, she lost an appeal against her conviction, but had her sentence reduced to 80 hours of community service.

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