Churchill’s grandson among 10 Tories to have whip restored after rebelling against no-deal Brexit

Returning MPs are now eligible to stand as Conservative candidates in election

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 29 October 2019 19:32
Boris Johnson announces government will push legislation to allow general election in December

Boris Johnson has restored the Conservative whip to 10 of the 21 Tory MPs expelled last month for rebelling to stop a no-deal Brexit, a party spokesman has announced.

Among those restored to Tory ranks were Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames and former business secretary Greg Clark.

But former chancellors Philip Hammond and Kenneth Clarke, ex-cabinet ministers Sir Oliver Letwin and David Gauke and second referendum campaigner Dominic Grieve were not among those allowed back.

Also not offered the Tory whip back was former home secretary Amber Rudd, who quit the cabinet and the party in protest at the expulsions.

The move leaves Mr Johnson 25 votes short of a working majority in the Commons, when support from Democratic Unionist Party allies is included.

Others returning to the Tory fold were Richard Benyon, Steve Brine, Alistair Burt, Stephen Hammond, Richard Harrington, Margot James, Caroline Nokes and Ed Vaizey.

A senior Conservative spokesman said that the decision should not be interpreted as a sign that the remaining Tory exiles have no prospect of returning to the party.

The spokesman said it was expected that all Tory MPs and candidates will in future support Mr Johnson’s efforts to implement his Brexit deal.

Mr Johnson restored the whip during a face-to-face meeting with the 10 MPs in his House of Commons office, as the debate on a 12 December election took place in the chamber nearby.

All are now eligible to fight upcoming elections as Conservative candidates, though Sir Nicholas, Mr Benyon, Mr Burt and Mr Harrington have previously indicated that they intend to stand down at the end of this parliament.

The return of the whip was welcomed by members of the Conservatives’ mainstream wing. Culture secretary Nicky Morgan said she was “very pleased to see this happen”, while Jo Johnson, who quit the government over the prime minister’s willingness to contemplate no deal, said his brother had made a “good decision”.

The leader of the party’s centrist One Nation caucus, Damian Green, said: “Delighted that 10 good colleagues are rejoining the parliamentary Conservative Party. Still hope for more.”

The decision on readmission is understood to have taken into account individual MPs’ record in key Brexit votes since the mass expulsion.

The Tory spokesman said: “There has been a ladder to climb for those 21. Some have taken the action to climb that ladder, some have not.

“Some parliamentarians have done their best to pass the Brexit deal and the means to get Brexit done. Others have consistently undermined the necessary measures.”

Tory exiles were judged on their decisions in key votes including the so-called Letwin amendment which deferred approval of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, and the later second reading and timetable motion on the bill to ratify it. However, Mr Harrington appears to have been forgiven his vote against the timetable – or programme motion.

Philip Hammond’s record of voting for the Letwin amendment and against the Withdrawal Agreement Bill’s programme motion are thought to have stood in the way of restoration of the whip, along with his announcement that he is considering standing as an independent against Tories in the election.

Mr Gauke and Ms Rudd both backed the Letwin amendment, while Anne Milton voted against the programme motion and Antoinette Sandbach voted against the government on both.

Ardent opponents of Brexit Guto Bebb, Justine Greening and Mr Grieve are believed to have put themselves beyond the pale, as has Letwin, whose amendments were one of the biggest obstacles to Mr Johnson meeting his 31 October target for Brexit. Sam Gyimah has joined the Liberal Democrats.

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