MPs are demanding action after the Conservative Party sinks to an all-time low

Theresa May looking nervous
Emily Apple

Opposition MPs are demanding action after the Conservative Party sank to a new low to secure crucial votes for its Brexit bill.

Chief whip Julian Smith is at the heart of the scandal after the Times published [paywall] allegations that he ordered MPs to ignore pairing arrangements. Pairing arrangements are used to ensure MPs who are, for example, on maternity leave, are matched with another MP who’d vote differently. The paired MP then doesn’t vote.

Conservative chair Brandon Lewis was paired with Lib Dem Jo Swinson who is currently on maternity leave. Lewis voted and Swinson called him out on it. Lewis apologised, and the Conservative whip took responsibility, claiming it was a “mistake”.

The allegations go all the way to the top. At Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on 18 July, Theresa May claimed the breaking of the pairing “was done in error”. This means that, if the allegations are true, she doesn’t know what her chief whip is doing. Or she lied to parliament.

He’s got to go

Opposition MPs, including deputy Labour leader Tom Watson, took to Twitter to call for Smith’s resignation:

And he wasn’t alone:

Lib Dems and Green MP Caroline Lucas also echoed this view:

And even some Conservative MPs weren’t impressed:

Where does the buck stop?

But some MPs and political commentators are pointing out that the buck doesn’t necessarily stop with Smith:

Dirty tricks

This latest dirty trick is indicative of a government in crisis resorting to desperate and outrageous measures.

If the allegations are true, May either has no control over the actions by her chief whip for a mistake she said “wasn’t good enough”, or the orders are coming from the top. Either way, May, Smith and her party have to go. We deserve better than this.

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