Commons chaos an ‘absolute disgrace’, says ‘livid’ senior Tory MP

Sir Charles Walker said Wednesday’s scenes were a ‘pitiful reflection on the Conservative Parliamentary Party’.

19 October 2022

Chaotic scenes in the House of Commons have been condemned as “inexcusable” and an “absolute disgrace”, by a senior Tory backbencher.

Sir Charles Walker, a former vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, said he was “livid” about recent turmoil and warned that unless the party starts to “behave like grown-ups” then “perhaps 200” MPs could find themselves out of jobs.

Those who helped put Liz Truss into power as Prime Minister also have a lot to answer for, he added.

He was talking after the Government defeated Labour’s bid to ban fracking amid farcical scenes in the Commons on Wednesday.

Speaking after Labour’s motion was defeated by 230 votes to 326, Sir Charles told BBC News: “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.”

The chaos erupted shortly before the vote at 7pm after climate minister Graham Stuart announced in the Commons chamber that, contrary to what MPs had been told earlier, it was not being treated as a vote of confidence in the Government of Liz Truss.

Until that point, Tory MPs had been on notice that they would have the whip withdrawn and be expelled from the parliamentary party if they failed to support the Government.

Sir Charles told the BBC: “I’ve really not seen anything like tonight.

“What I understand is that we were on a confidence vote, which means if you voted against your Government, you’d lose the whip because, in essence, you were saying you had no confidence in the Government.

“Then at the despatch box, in the wind-up, the minister said it wasn’t a confidence vote, which created chaos in the division lobbies. There was then a sort of 20-minute delay between the vote happening and the result being announced which, by the way, wasn’t even close.

“The Government won it by nearly 100 votes. But I just think the whole thing is extraordinary. And somewhere in between this, the vote being called and the result being announced, the chief whip resigned.

“But I just think the whole thing is extraordinary.”

MP waves Nokia phone in Commons
Sir Charles Walker (House of Commons/PA)

At that point rumours that the chief whip had resigned were not being officially denied, he added.

Sir Charles, MP for Broxbourne, said he is leaving Parliament voluntarily at the next general election.

He added: “Unless we get our act together and behave like grown-ups, I’m afraid many hundreds of my colleagues, perhaps 200, will be leaving at the behest of their electorate.”

Asked if there is any coming back from this, Sir Charles, visibly angry, said: “I don’t think so. And I have to say I’ve been of that view really since two weeks ago.

“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.”

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