Liz Truss On The Brink As Commons Vote Descends Into Chaos Amid Tory Bullying Claims

The prime minister even failed to confirm she has confidence in herself.
Liz Truss during prime minister's questions.
Liz Truss during prime minister's questions.
UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor via PA Media

Liz Truss’s leadership was hanging by a thread tonight after a Commons vote on fracking descended into chaos amid claims of “bullying” by senior Tories.

Eyewitnesses described farcical scenes as Conservative MPs did not know whether the vote was a “confidence” matter, meaning they would lose the party whip for not backing the government.

There were reports that chief whip Wendy Morton had resigned, while it was also claimed that she was sacked in the voting lobbies by Liz Truss herself.

And incredibly, the prime minister ended up not taking part in the vote, meaning she failed to confirm that she has confidence in herself.

The vote was on Labour calls for fracking to be banned, HuffPost UK revealed this morning how deputy chief whip Craig Whittaker had written to all Tory MPs telling them it was being treated as “a confidence motion in the government”.

But closing the debate for the government, energy minister Graham Stuart said: “Quite clearly this is not a confidence vote.”

That led to the subsequent confusion in the voting lobbies, with Tory MPs unsure whether they would lose the whip for voting against the gpvernment.

One told HuffPost UK: “There was chaos in the lobby. Ministers and secretaries of state were unsure if they should swipe their card to vote as they didn’t know if it was a confidence vote or not.”

One eyewitness said he saw business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg and Tory chairman Jake Berry shouting at MPs to vote with the government.

Labour MP Chris Bryant claimed some Tories were “bullied” and “physically manhandled” to vote with the government and demanded an investigation.

Sir Charles Walker, the Tory MP for Broxbourne, told the BBC: “To be perfectly honest, this whole affair is inexcusable.

“It is a pitiful reflection on the Conservative Parliamentary Party at every level and it reflects really badly obviously on the government of the day.”

He added: “This is an absolute disgrace, as a Tory MP of 17 years who’s never been a minister, who’s got on with it loyally most of the time, I think it’s a shambles and a disgrace. I think it is utterly appalling. I’m livid.”

The government won the vote by 326 to 230, but more than 40 Tory MPs - including the prime minister - did not vote.

Jacob Rees-Mogg blamed “miscommunication” for the chaos.

He told Sky News: “Late in the day a junior official in 10 Downing Street sent a message to the frontbench saying it’s not a vote of confidence. No one else was aware of that, the whips weren’t aware of that, I wasn’t aware of that and most members thought it was a vote of confidence.

“So I think there was simply one of those unfortunate miscommunications that occasionally happen.”

On the bullying claims, he said: “I didn’t see any bullying. There were discussions going on, and there was a discussion about the vote that was taking place, and this was what normally goes on outside the division lobby.

“I heard one person swear and use an expletive… a Conservative when going into the division lobby, swear and say, sort of ‘get on with it’, but he wasn’t saying it to an individual.”

The extraordinary scenes further demonstrated Truss’s lack of control over her parliamentary party.

They came just hours after home secretary Suella Braverman resigned with a stinging criticism of the government’s record on immigration.

Increasing numbers of Tory MPs are publicly calling on the prime minister to quit barely six weeks after taking over from Boris Johnson.

Opinion polls suggest the Conservatives are facing electoral wipeout after last month’s disastrous mini-budget led to economic chaos.


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