Recent weeks ‘a sad chapter’ in history of Conservatives, says Ellwood

Tobias Ellwood declined to get into speculation about why the Government moved so swiftly to strip him of the party whip.

20 July 2022

Tobias Ellwood, a Tory MP who lost the party whip after he failed to support the Government in a confidence vote on Monday, has called recent weeks a “sad chapter” in the history of the Conservatives.

Mr Ellwood, who is supporting Penny Mordaunt in the race to replace Boris Johnson, declined to get into speculation about why the Government moved so swiftly to penalise him.

The former minister and chairman of the Commons Defence Committee had argued he was unable to travel back from a meeting with the president of Moldova.

The decision means that Mr Ellwood is no longer eligible to vote in the Tory leadership contest, with the final ballot of MPs taking place later on Wednesday.

This had prompted suggestions, rejected outright by allies of the Prime Minister, that in taking the decision to suspend Mr Ellwood, Mr Johnson was working to boost Liz Truss’s campaign for No 10.

With Rishi Sunak practically guaranteed a place in the run-off vote of Tory party members, who choose between the final two candidates, it is only Ms Mordaunt standing between the Foreign Secretary and her place in the next decisive stage of the contest.

But Mr Ellwood, who on Wednesday urged party infighting to end, declined to add fuel to speculation of ulterior motives behind the decision of the whip’s office.

He 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.”

Conservative leadership bid
Conservative Party leadership contender Liz Truss will need to defeat Penny Mordaunt to reach the final two (Victoria Jones/PA)

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.”

Mr Ellwood had harsh words for his party, after a turbulent few weeks in British politics that has seen the Conservative Party unseat Mr Johnson as Prime Minister, a precursor to what has turned into an increasingly bitter contest to replace him.

Speaking to Sky News from Odesa, Ukraine, he said: “The nation wants to be impressed and inspired, not demoralised, by what they’re witnessing right now.

“And we need to perhaps exhibit greater decorum, dial the temperature down a bit, showcase the ideas, the vision, focus on those things that are important, that the nation wants to see.

“That’s what will earn us the right to stay in government, otherwise we’re just going to be letting ourselves down and indeed committing ourselves to probably a long spell in opposition.”

It remains unclear when Mr Ellwood will have the whip restored, as he expressed the hope it would only be a temporary suspension.

Government minister Simon Clarke defended the decision to strip the Tory party whip from Mr Ellwood, calling his actions a “very serious mistake”.

“He was in Moldova, rather than Ukraine. He was not on Government work, he is a backbench MP,” he told Sky News.

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,” he said.

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