Tobias Ellwood has Tory whip suspended again after reprieve for leadership vote
enior MP Tobias Ellwood has again had the Tory whip withdrawn after he was temporarily handed it back so he could cast his final vote in the Conservative leadership contest.
But with the whip went Mr Ellwood’s right to vote in the leadership race, raising questions of fairness as the outgoing Prime Minister acted against one of Penny Mordaunt’s supporters.
Mr Ellwood was handed it back so he could take part in the final round of voting in Westminster, before a whips’ office spokeswoman said on Wednesday evening: “Tobias Ellwood MP has had the Conservative whip suspended.”
Ms Mordaunt was eliminated from the race when she came third behind former chancellor Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary being supported by Mr Johnson’s loyalists.
Mr Ellwood, a former minister, had argued he was unable to make it to the crucial vote as he struggled to travel back from a meeting with the president of Moldova.
But on Wednesday afternoon, as voting in the ballot of Tory MPs got under way in Westminster, he tweeted: “Delighted to report my request for a momentary return of the whip has been granted – just long enough for my proxy vote to be cast!”
The decision to strip the Bournemouth East MP of the party whip had prompted suggestions, rejected outright by allies of the Prime Minister, that Mr Johnson was working to boost Liz Truss’s campaign for No 10.
The whips’ spokeswoman had said: “From the start of the leadership contest the whips’ office took a neutral position.
“After Tobias Ellwood MP failed to attend an important vote he had the Conservative Party whip suspended.
“To ensure that the whips’ office neutrality in the leadership contest cannot be questioned, the whip has been temporarily unsuspended from Tobias Ellwood MP.
“Upon the conclusion of today’s leadership contest, Tobias Ellwood MP will have the whip suspended.”
But that was only until the reprieve was over.
Mr Ellwood had earlier said that recent weeks have been a “sad chapter” in the history of the Conservatives, warning that the party had “lost our way”.
Mr Ellwood told Sky News that he deeply regretted losing the whip, but said he did not ignore the whip’s office and kept the party informed of his movements.
“There are a few options to get back, but there were problems with travel in the UK,” he said.
“I am very sorry I didn’t make it back.”
He told Sky News that he did not want to speculate about the reasons why he specifically lost the whip, adding: “I’d be then fuelling the blue-on-blue (attacks), which I’m actually trying to avoid.
“Let’s focus on how we can move forward and make sure that we conclude this leadership campaign to the highest professional standard that I think the British people want to see.”
Government minister Simon Clarke defended the decision, calling Mr Ellwood’s actions a “very serious mistake”.
“He was in Moldova, rather than Ukraine.
“He was not on Government work, he is a backbench MP,” he said.
Mr Clarke suggested that Mr Ellwood knew the consequences of missing the vote.
“Look, I’m not a member of the whip’s office.
“What I will say is that there are clear arrangements in place which all MPs understand, which govern the conditions for absence from votes, most especially critical votes like a motion of confidence in the Government, which has the potential to trigger a general election,” Mr Clarke told Sky News.