A veteran Conservative MP has been accused of sexism after he criticised another Tory backbencher of not having “applied her mind”.
Christopher Chope made the comment while defending his decision to force another debate on Westminster sleaze.
Boris Johnson attempted to quickly and quietly win Commons approval for his U-turn on a shakeup of Westminster’s standards rules on Monday evening.
But to the horror of other Conservatives, Chope objected and the government had to hold a debate on the issue today, giving further airtime to the Owen Paterson row.
Alicia Kearns, the MP for Rutland and Melton, told Chope parliament had already had “four and half hours of debate” and needed to move on.
“Do our constituents not deserve us to focus on delivering on those promises we made to them and things that matter to them?” she said.
“How much time does he want us to give? Is it five hours? Ten hours? When will it be enough?”
To angry shouts from the Tory benches, Chope replied: “Clearly in the time to which she has been referring she hasn’t applied her mind to the principle issue.”
Kearns hit back: “Oh yes, I am a woman.”
Chope said it was important for “democracy” for MPs to debate the U-turn rather than have it approved without a vote.
The row erupted after a Westminster standards watchdog recommended Paterson, a former Tory minister, be suspended from the Commons for breaking parliament’s rules on lobbying.
But Conservative MPs were ordered to block the suspension and hand oversight of parliament’s standards rules to a Tory-majority committee.
After Labour and other opposition parties refused to agree, Johnson was forced to abandon the plan and let MPs approve the sanction of Paterson and keep the existing standards rules.