The government has come under fire for reinstating two suspended MPs to the Conservative party just hours before Theresa May faced a key confidence vote on her leadership.
It was revealed on Wednesday that the party whip had been returned to both Dover MP Charlie Elphicke, who was suspended last November over unknown “serious allegations” which he denies, and former business minister Andrew Griffiths.
The married Burton MP resigned from the government in July after it was revealed he had sent lewd text messages to two barmaids just weeks after the birth of his first child.
In an interview with Burton Live, Griffiths confirmed that he would be supporting the prime minister as Tory MPs cast their votes in a confidence vote in her leadership this evening, saying she remains the “best person” to deliver Brexit.
“Theresa May has shown huge determination and bravery in negotiating and arguing for her deal,” he said.
The decision to restore the whip to Griffiths sparked anger among women’s rights campaigners, with shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler branding it a “betrayal of women”.
She wrote on Twitter: “How can Theresa May call herself a feminist when she lets an MP who was suspended for sexual harassment back into the Conservative Party to vote for her in the leadership challenge?”
Meanwhile, Labour MP Jess Phillips wrote: “They said it would be different. They said we won’t let patronage and power change our minds where wrongdoing occurred. They said we won’t protect our mates.
“They lied, they all lied. Same old same old.”
The move, which raises the number of Tory MPs to 31, means May must now get 159 votes – half of the parliamentary party plus one – to secure her position. But it is unclear whether she will be able to survive as leader without a decisive win.