Saturday, 18 August, 2018


Pressure mounts on chief whip Julian Smith after new admission on pairing

Calls for Tory Chief Whip to resign after he ‘told MPs to defy pairing deals’ on key Brexit vote Chief Whip Julian Smith leaves 10 Downing Street
Bennie Garza | 20 July, 2018, 19:16

Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson has accused Theresa May of making "blatantly untrue excuses" for the behaviour of her chief whip.

Downing Street said Mrs May still had full confidence in Mr Smith. Yet his role in the pairing row, with new mother Jo Swinson misled into thinking she could stay at home with her baby for a key Brexit votethis week, grows more damaging by the minute.

I think it was an honest mistake made by the whips in fast-moving circumstances.

"To be fair, hats off to the two MPs who told their chief whip to take a running jump when he asked them to break a pairing just because the [Government] might lose".

Ms Swinson, who gave birth to her second child on 29 June and has not been at parliament since, had been told that the Tory chairman was her pair, meaning he cancel out her absence by abstaining.

But speaking to the Press Association during a visit to Northern Ireland on Thursday, she said: "An honest mistake was made here and both the chief whip and Brandon Lewis have apologised to Jo Swinson, the member for East Dunbartonshire about that".

There is an old saying in politics. Or an MP may be taking maternity/paternity/adoption leave, and in need of a long-term arrangement.

"No other pairs offered on the trade bill on Tuesday were broken". "This is about trust and honour", a source tells me.

Under fire: Julian Smith and Andrea Leadsom.

Some Conservatives too are pretty angry.

But Mr Lewis breached the deal and voted anyway, helping the Government to win that crucial division.

It has been claimed that two other Tory MPs ignored Mr Smith's instructions on breaking pairing agreements.

But the actions didn't have a bearing on the final result, with the Government narrowly scrapping through by 307 votes to 301 in what could have been a humiliating defeat for the Prime Minister. But misleading the Commons is a very serious matter indeed, often the very cause of previous ministerial resignations. "At such a crucial time for our country, people expect candour and decency, not cowardice and dishonesty".

Asked if Mr Smith is going to have to resign, Ms Bradley told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Well, you know, I know everybody is fascinated by the workings of the Whips' Office".

"From forcing seriously ill MPs into the Commons in their wheelchairs, carrying sick buckets, to cheating a new mum out of her vote, this government is rotten to its core". Two of the MPs are reported to have refused to break their pairing arrangements. "If they can't do so, surely the chief whip and Conservative Party chair should resign".

But he said Mr Smith had "always been completely honourable, decent, I have never questioned his integrity once".

Over the course of the Parliament, 66 pairing arrangements have been broken, with 52 of those at the hands of the Opposition, according to Tory sources.

Mr Smith also apologised and said he had discussed it with his Lib Dem counterpart Alistair Carmichael.

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