A former veteran Tory whip texts:
“There have been 2,000 pairs arranged since the General Election. 66 have been broken. 14 pairs have been broken by the Government and 52 pairs have been broken by the Opposition (of which 7 were broken by the Lib Dems, despite them having only 12 MPs). There is a lot of faux outrage about.”
It turns out Labour, and proportionally especially the LibDems, are by some distance the worse offenders when it comes to breaking pairs. It does seem to happen a fair amount – around 3% of pairs are broken, and four-fifths of the broken pairs were committed by opposition parties. The Brandon Lewis / Julian Smith / Jo Swinson row comes down to whether you believe the chief whip that it was a mistake… it would be an extraordinarily dangerous thing to lie about…
Is Brandon Lewis / Julian Lewis excuse that they didn’t know he was paired with pregnant Jo Swinson last night believable? Not really. The Tory party chairman abstained for seven of the nine votes – the whips told him he was not needed for the seven where the government didn’t need every last vote. For the two votes that were on a knife-edge, Brandon voted with the government. Did the whips really not know he was paired with an absent pregnant MP? Swinson isn’t buying it, she says the excuse is “literally not credible”.
Just how low will your govt stoop @theresa_may? When @andrealeadsom delayed proxy voting motions, she *assured* those of us who were pregnant that we would be paired when necessary. Today your govt broke that agreement – @BrandonLewis paired with me but voted. Desperate stuff. pic.twitter.com/CcgF7z8MOV
— Jo Swinson (@joswinson) July 17, 2018
Tory chief whip Julian Smith has offered this apology:
— Julian Smith MP (@JulianSmithUK) July 17, 2018
As has Brandon, but he has declined to answer Swinson’s request for a further explanation:
Really? So what happened then? Take me through it.
— Jo Swinson (@joswinson) July 17, 2018
There is talk that other paired Tories were pressured to break their promises too…
The chief whip has banned Tory MPs from doing media bids on Brexit until they have been briefed fully by Number 10, Guido can reveal. Julian Smith emailed Tory MPs last night ordering them not to carry out any media bids until they had heard Number 10’s side of the argument. May’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell is also offering a new emergency briefing tonight, in addition to the previously scheduled one on Monday morning.
From: Government Chief Whip
Subject: Further briefing on Sunday evening
You will have seen my emails inviting you to the briefing this morning in No 9 Downing Street and to the briefings on Monday morning. I am keen to ensure that all Colleagues are able to attend a briefing and to be provided with as much information as possible about what the Cabinet has agreed.
The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff is willing to give an extra briefing on Sunday evening at 8pm. If you are interested in attending this briefing, please could you let me know as soon as possible?
I want to stress that Colleagues must ensure they receive a full briefing before carrying out any media bids and you can contact me or No 10 Press Office to arrange this.
With best wishes
Rt Hon Julian Smith MP
Government Chief Whip
Signs of trouble…
Last night deputy chief whip Chris Pincher sent this round robin text to a number of Tory MPs begging them to tweet in support of the Prime Minister:
A selection of the least subtle whips’ patsies:
We need to unite behind @theresa_may and her vision of Brexit which will deliver on the referendum result AND be business friendly
— Simon Hoare MP (@Simon4NDorset) July 5, 2018
Looking forward to the announcement after tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting but, as someone who campaigned to leave the EU, I know that the only way that the UK is going to get the Brexit that people on #DudleySouth voted for is with @theresa_may fighting for Britain.
— Mike Wood (@mikejwood) July 5, 2018
An old Jewish proverb rightly says:”A house divided amongst itself will fall”. The Conservative Party’s secret weapon has always been its ‘unity’, which has brought electoral success. Division in the late 1990s kept the Conservatives out of power for 13years. Time for Party unity
— Mark Pritchard MP (@MPritchardUK) July 5, 2018
I voted remain but as soon as I heard the referendum result I strongly believed we must leave because politicians ignore people and democracy at their peril. Now we MPs must put the country first, unite our party behind our PM and deliver #Brexit.
— Rachel Maclean MP (@redditchrachel) July 5, 2018
Like footballers being asked to tweet out an advertiser’s campaign, then giving the game away…
Sick Labour MP Naz Shah is forced to vote in a wheelchair and clutching a sick bucket after the Tories refused to keep to the convention of “nodding through” ill MPs. Well done, great look.
Over the last 48 hours there has been speculation that the whips are going soft and considering a further compromise to Dominic Grieve ahead of tomorrow’s Commons vote.
Lots of talk in SW1 of further government concessions to D. Grieve & co.
— George Trefgarne (@GeorgeTrefgarne) June 19, 2018
Guido isn’t sure what else there is to concede on. Number 10 has given Remainers absolutely everything they want, short of the ability to stop Brexit entirely. We are heading towards a very ‘soft’ Brexit, closely aligned to Brussels. We are staying in a customs union for years after Brexiting, possibly longer. By the end of the negotiation, things might be even closer to the Hammond / Remainer vision of Brexit than that. Further concessions are not acceptable.
Remain MPs who Guido has spoken are increasingly unimpressed with the Grieve / Soubry / Hailsham attempt to block Brexit. Most Tory Remainers accept that Brexit has to happen, and that it would be a dangerous betrayal of democracy to allow Grieve and co to get their way. Indeed, Tory Remainers are privately accusing Grieve of dishonesty over his motives. His talk of blowing up the government went down spectacularly badly, too. At least Hailsham and the rebels in the Lords are honest about wanting to stop Brexit.
How many Tory Remainers have come out to endorse Grieve’s plot to keep us in the EU this week? The likes of Nicky Morgan have been quiet for days. Julian Smith must hold firm, win round the majority of the more sensible Remain rebels, and see Grieve off tomorrow with no further concessions…