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Turmoil as UK Home secretary quits, vote chaos add to turmoil for PM

 

A  chaotic day in Parliament has left Liz Truss’s survival even more uncertain after the sudden resignation of her home secretary and angry scenes during a fracking vote in the Commons.

Opposition MPs alleged some Tories were bullied and manhandled into voting with the government on fracking, reports the BBC.

A minister denied the claim, but many Tory MPs ended the day feeling angry and let down by their own party.

Conservative MP Charles Walker said the situation was a “shambles”.

Visibly furious, he told the BBC there was “no coming back” for the government.

Later he added: “I expect the prime minister to resign very soon because she’s not up to her job.”

Downing Street started Wednesday believing the prime minister was on a more solid footing after the appointment of Jeremy Hunt as chancellor – and his decision to reverse much of Ms Truss’s mini-Budget – appeared to have calmed the markets.

She also survived Prime Minister’s Questions – the weekly question session with MPs – relatively unscathed.

However, things began to unravel for Ms Truss shortly afterwards.

The prime minister was forced to hastily cancel a visit to an electronics manufacturer in order to have a meeting with Suella Braverman after her then-home secretary broke government data rules.

The BBC has been told Ms Braverman breached the ministerial code by sending a government document to someone not authorised to receive it.

In her resignation letter, Ms Braverman acknowledged there had been “a technical infringement of the rules”, adding: “I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility: I resign.”

However, she also took an angry swipe at the government by accusing it of breaking “key pledges” and failing to reduce immigration numbers.

Her departure makes Ms Braverman the shortest-serving home secretary since World War II – and comes less than a week after the resignation of Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor.

Grant Shapps – who Ms Truss had sacked as transport secretary six weeks ago – became the new home secretary.

Shortly after Shapps arrived at the Home Office to start his new job, chaotic scenes began to play out in the Commons, where MPs were voting on fracking.

Labour had tabled a vote which, if passed, would give MPs a say on the government’s plans to bring back fracking.

Many Conservatives have spoken out against bringing back fracking but they were told that the vote was being regarded as a vote of confidence in the prime minister and the government.

This meant that if they did not side with the government they could be kicked out of the parliamentary party.

The government won the vote by 326 votes to 230, with the division list showing 40 Tory MPs did not vote.

Conservative MPs who did not back the government are facing “proportionate disciplinary action”, says No 10.

Downing Street said MPs were “fully aware” the vote was being regarded as a vote of confidence and added: “Those without a reasonable excuse for failing to vote with the government can expect proportionate disciplinary action.”

Labour MP Chris Bryant claimed some Conservative MPs had been physically manhandled in the voting lobbies to ensure they supported the government.

And a Labour shadow minister, Anna McMorrin, wrote on Twitter that she witnessed one Conservative MP “in tears being manhandled” in the voting lobby in Parliament.

However, Conservative MP Alex Stafford denied this, saying there had simply been a “frank and robust conversation” about his opposition to fracking.

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg also said he would not characterise the events as bullying.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford urged the PM to quit – party leader Nicola Sturgeon described Wednesday’s events as an “utter shambles” and called for a general election.

Fallout from the vote led to speculation that Chief Whip Wendy Morton – in charge of party discipline – and her deputy Craig Whittaker had left their posts.

Rumours were fuelled by government silence on the issue and at one point Rees-Mogg told Sky News he was “not entirely clear” about the situation.

After a few hours, however, it emerged that both Ms Morton and Whittaker were remaining in post.

Speaking outside the Carlton Club in London earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Therese Coffey praised Ms Morton for doing a “great job” on the fracking vote.

Responding to Charles Walker’s criticisms of Ms Truss, former culture secretary Nadine Dorries urged him to back the PM because “he helped to put her where she is”.

However, backbencher Sir Roger Gale suggested that “in a peculiar way” Ms Truss “might come out of it stronger”, referencing her appointment of Shapps as home secretary.

Earlier in the day, it was revealed that one of Ms Truss’s most senior advisers has been suspended amid a formal investigation by the Propriety and Ethics Team, which is responsible for standards across government.

It followed some anger from Conservative backbench MPs about briefings to newspapers from No 10 sources over the weekend – including disparaging remarks about former health secretary Sajid Javid.

Former Brexit minister Lord David Frost – once an ally of Ms Truss – has called on the prime minister to go.

He argued in a piece in the Daily Telegraph that she was “implementing neither the programme Liz Truss originally advocated nor the 2019 manifesto”.

He added: “There is no shred of a mandate for this. It’s only happening because the Truss government messed things up more badly than anyone could have imagined.. something has to give”.

 

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