MPs who abstain from vote should lose party whip says Steve Baker
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Steve Baker doubled down on the Government’s pledge to expel Tory MPs who failed to vote with the Government on fracking last night. Chaotic scenes in the Commons yesterday, including U-turns on whether it was a ‘vote of confidence’ in Liz Truss, have heaped more pressure on the Prime Minister. Despite the chaos, No10 has this morning insisted Conservative MPs who did not back the Government face “proportionate disciplinary action”.
Mr Baker made this point during ITV’s Peston last night, as the Minister for Northern Ireland said Conservative MPs who abstained should have the Party whip removed.
He accused the 40 MPs who did not register a vote of giving control to the Labour Party.
When host Robert Peston pressed him on whether the abstentions would see the MPs thrown out of the party, Mr Baker responded: “Yes, they should be.
“Abstaining ought to mean losing the whip.”
Mr Peston later tweeted about this strategy for dealing with the abstentions, calling it “literally nuts”.
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He tweeted: “It turns out the crazy day is not over.
“I’ve just had a text – after 1.30am – from Downing St saying tonight’s fracking vote was always a confidence vote, that Downing Street made a mistake in telling the minister at the despatch box it wasn’t.
“Tory MPs who deliberately abstained are in trouble (as Steve Baker said, on my prog tonight, they would be).
“This seems to be the price to prevent the chief and deputy chief whip from resigning. It all feels pretty panicked.
“I should say this humiliating statement from Downing St seems to be the price to prevent the chief and deputy chief whips from undoing the un-resigning of their earlier angry resignations. Literally nuts.”
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The vote last night was put into motion after Labour had tabled a vote which would give MPs a say on the Government’s plans to bring back fracking.
Many Conservatives, who disagreed with fracking, were told that the vote was being treated as a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister.
The Government won the vote by 326 votes to 230, with the division list showing 40 Tory MPs did not vote.
Several notable MPs who didn’t vote last night include former PM Theresa May, former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and former Home Secretary Priti Patel.
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In the early hours of Thursday, Downing Street said MPs were “fully aware” the vote was being regarded as a vote of confidence.
They added: “Those without a reasonable excuse for failing to vote with the government can expect proportionate disciplinary action.”
It was even reported that Ms Truss herself did not vote amid the chaos – however, the official parliamentary website later recorded her vote.
Following the vote, veteran Tory MP Charles Walker told the BBC that the situation in Westminster was a “shambles”, adding that: “This whole affair is inexcusable.”
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