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Government Accused Of "Manhandling" Tory MPs In Chaotic Vote On Fracking

Chris Bryant made an accusation that MPs were manhandled during a fracking vote (alamy)

4 min read

The government has been accused of physically manhandling Conservative MPs during a vote on fracking on a chaotic night in which Liz Truss's leadership continued to hang in the balance.

Labour MP Chris Bryant urged House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle to launch an investigation into what he described as Tory MPs being "physically manhandled" and "bullied" into voting with the government on a motion tabled by Keir Starmer's party.

While the government did ultimately win the vote, a significant number of Tories did not support the government, and last minute confusion reigned over whether or not the vote amounted to a confidence motion, as was originally whipped, when MPs scrambled through the lobbies.

"I would urge you to launch an investigation into the scenes outside the no lobby earlier," Bryant said in the House of Commons following the vote this evening.

"As you know, members are expected to be able to vote without fear or favour, and the behaviour code... says there shall never be bullying of harassment of members.

"I saw members being physically manhandled into another lobby, and being bullied. If we want to stand up against bullying in this House against our staff, we have to stop bullying in this chamber as well."

On a chaotic day in Westminster:

  • Swathes of Tory MPs failed to support the government on Labour's Opposition Day Motion on fracking. 
  • No 10 was forced to confirm that two government whips hadn't resigned after they expressed fury with how the Truss regime had handled the vote.
  • Suella Braverman was replaced as Home Secretary by Grant Shapps
  • A senior Truss adviser was suspended over briefings from a No 10 source against former minister Sajid Javid.

SNP MP David Linden and Labour's Anna McMorrin also claimed to see Conservative MPs being manhandled. Linden alleged seeing Thérèse Coffey, the Deputy Prime Minister and Health Secretary, "practically pick up a hesitant Tory MP".

Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray said Business Secretary Jacob Rees Mogg was "shouting" at Conservative MPs in the voting lobbies and that backbenchers were dragged into the 'no' lobby.

It had been claimed that Alex Stafford, the Conservative MP for Rother Valley, had been physically mandhandled. However, he tweeted saying he had nothing more than a "frank and robust conversation" with members of the government.

Confusion reigned in Westmimster in the run-up to the vote with No 10 sending out mixed messages over whether the fracking vote was tantamount to a confidence vote in government.

Earlier in the day, Conservative MPs had been warned that those who vote on Wednesday night against the government would lose the Tory whip. However, moments before voting got underway at 7pm minister Graham Stuart told MPs: "Obviously this is not a confidence vote."

As confused MPs went to vote, Wendy Morton entered the corridor telling MPs that she had resigned as Chief Whip, according to an MP who was present. They told PoliticsHome that Morton shouted "I'm no longer the Chief Whip" while Truss was just metres away. 

"Colleagues had to make their minds up on what was going on," they said.

There were also reports that Deputy Chief Whip Craig Whittaker had announced his resignation. The Spectator reported that he was heard telling MPs: "I am fucking furious and I don’t give a fuck anymore." 

10 Downing Street later said that both were still in post, however.

The government won the vote on the motion, which called for a new law banning fracking, but numerous Conservative MPs abstained.

Former ministers Tracey Crouch and Chris Skidmore announced prior to the vote that they would be prepared to lose the whip in order to defy the Prime Minister, as well as 2019-er Angela Richardson.

Earlier in the day, Suella Braverman resigned as Home Secretary in another major blow to Truss's under-pressure leadership. 

She has been replaced by the former transport secretary, Grant Shapps, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the Prime Minister.

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