Jo Swinson says Tories broke Brexit vote agreement

Theresa-May-Julian-Smith

Theresa-May-Julian-Smith

"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".

Lewis and Smith have both apologised to Swinson and insisted it was an "honest mistake".

Almost all of them ignored the instruction, but Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis followed it and voted with the government in two knife-edge votes on Tuesday evening, one of which the government lost.

The report added that two unnamed MPs caught further advice and ignored the instruction.

The Conservative Party has not denied the allegations.

Earlier, Mrs May told MPs the breaking of the pair was "done in error". "It wasn't good enough and will not be repeated".

Responding to the controversy, Theresa May 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".

Tory MP Heidi Allen said this morning: "I sincerely hope this isn't true".

'Principle, integrity and standards matter. "Without those, what's left?"

Accusing the Tories of "cheating", she said it was a "calculated, deliberate breaking of trust" by the Government whips to "win at all costs".

But they have faced furious criticism - both from Labour and the Lib Dems, and some Tory MPs - amid suspicion Mr Smith deliberately ordered MPs to break their pairing deals because the votes were so important. We need a full, honest explanation of what's gone on.

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"If Brandon Lewis and Julian Smith, two generals of the nasty party, don't have the honour to resign, the Prime Minister should find the strength to sack them".

The Government's margin of victory on the bill was just six votes.

Conservative commentators also expressed concerns over Smith's actions with some calls for him to resign.

Asked if the PM stood by her comments that the pact had been broken in error, a spokeswoman replied: "Yes, absolutely".

Conservative Brexiteer Peter Bone said he was "very concerned" to hear that a pairing had been broken. The following day the leader of the house, Andrea Leadsom, stated that this had been an honest mistake, but The Times later revealed that other MPs had also been encouraged to break pairing arrangements.

That prompted an angry response from Leadsom, who said that she was one of the Conservatives pairs on Tuesday night.

A debate on proxy voting, which would end the need for pairing, was shelved a couple of weeks ago due to other business and will be rescheduled for September, says Dr Thompson.

May said on Wednesday that it had been "done in error" and was unacceptable.

The twist is they broke the long-term pair with Jo Swinson "by accident", and while they acknowledge Julian Smith did "explore and possibly instruct" shorter-term pairs to be broken, none actually were.

Mr Smith (pictured above left) is said to have asked five MPs to ignore the deals as Theresa May's plan for future European Union links squeaked through the Commons on Tuesday.

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