Arch Boris Johnson critic Tobias Ellwood is stripped of Tory whip

Boris takes revenge: Arch critic Tobias Ellwood is stripped of Tory whip for failing to vote for the Government in confidence vote last night – despite being on an official visit to Moldova

  • Ellwood lost the whip after he failed to vote in last night’s confidence vote
  • Ex-soldier is chairman of the Defence Committee and is currently in Moldova
  • He was one of 12 Tories who abstained in vote comfortably won by PM 

Boris Johnson took revenge on one of his loudest Tory critics today for failing to support his Government.

Former minister Tobias Ellwood was stripped of the party whip after he failed to vote in last night’s Commons confidence vote.

But the move is likely to be seen as driven purely by the PM’s desire to get back at a backbencher who has made little secret of his loathing for him. 

Mr Ellwood was one of the first Tory MPs to demand he resign over the Partygate scandal.

The former soldier is chairman of the Defence Committee and was in Moldova.

In a statement Mr Ellwood said he is ‘very sorry’ to lose the Tory whip but argued he was unable to return from a meeting with the country’s president in Chisinau due to ‘unprecedented disruption’. 

The 55-year-old father of two was one of 12 Tories who abstained in the confidence vote last night, which Mr Johnson comfortably won 349 to 238, thanks to his huge majority.

This morning he appeared to indicate his support for Penny Mordaunt in the Tory leadership race, retweeting her campaign video. 

Stripping him of the whip means he can no longer vote, while former whip Chris Pincher, who had the whip suspended over allegations of groping, is still able to.

Mr Johnson’s team is believed to be tacitly backing rival Liz Truss, with several ministers coming out in support including Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg. 

But Culture Secretary Ms Dorries said it was ‘frankly utterly ridiculous’ to suggest this was the PM’s motive.

Former minister Tobias Ellwood was stripped of the party whip after he failed to vote in last night's Commons confidence vote.

Former minister Tobias Ellwood was stripped of the party whip after he failed to vote in last night’s Commons confidence vote.

But the move is likely to be seen as driven purely by the PM's desire to get back at a backbencher who has made little secret of his loathing for him.

But the move is likely to be seen as driven purely by the PM’s desire to get back at a backbencher who has made little secret of his loathing for him.

Mr Ellwood, a former soldier, is chairman of the Defence Committee and is currently in Moldova on an official visit in that role.

Mr Ellwood, a former soldier, is chairman of the Defence Committee and is currently in Moldova on an official visit in that role.

The 55-year-old father of two was one of 12 Tories who abstained in the confidence vote last night, which Mr Johnson comfortably won 349 to 238, thanks to his huge majority.

The 55-year-old father of two was one of 12 Tories who abstained in the confidence vote last night, which Mr Johnson comfortably won 349 to 238, thanks to his huge majority.

Long-term PM critic finally crosses the line

Of all of Boris Johnson’s critics within the Conservative Party , Tobias Ellwood is one of the least subtle.

The 55-year-old former British Army officer has made no secret of his distain for the leader who booted him out of his ministerial post upon taking office.

He was one of the first MPs to announce he had submitted a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson’s leadership.

And he has consistently called on the PM to resign in recent months. 

The Bournemouth East MP has also been accused of helping, behind the scenes, to lead the rebellion that forced the PM to announce his resignation.

Mr Ellwood is a former Army captain who made headlines in 2017 when he went to the aid of PC Keith Palmer who had been fatally stabbed by terrorist Khalid Masood outside the Palace of Westminster.

He was veterans minister at the Ministry of Defence under Theresa May but returned to the backbenches to lead the defence committee after Mr Johnson took office. 

He had been considered a possible candidate for the leadership after Mr Johnson announced he was quitting. But he blotted his copybook last month when he said that it was a ‘no brainer’ to rethink leaving the EU’s single market.

In a BBC interview he argued the country should opt for a softer Brexit, even if it means accepting the free movement of people.

He also criticised the Government’s plan to send failed migrants to Rwanda and called for a tougher response towards China and Russia.

In a statement, the senior MP said: ‘Following my meeting yesterday with the president of Moldova I was unable to secure return travel due to unprecedented disruption both here and in the UK.

‘I am very sorry to lose the whip but will now continue my meetings in Ukraine promoting the Prime Minister’s efforts here and specifically seeking to secure the reopening of Odesa port – so vital grain exports can recommence.’

But a Tory source said mhe had been warned before leaving that he would not be paired, adding: ‘Other Conservative MPs cancelled foreign trips, left poorly relatives and one MP’s mother died on the morning of the vote and still attended and voted.’ 

Ministers and backbenchers with valid reasons to be away from Parliament when there are votes are usually paired with people in similar positions in opposition parties, in order to keep the balance of the voting groups fair.

The process is discretionary and sometimes does not apply for major votes like a confidence vote.

It is understood the other 11 absentees were paired.

Mr Ellwood is a Remainer and long-term critic of the PM who has long called for him to be replaced as Tory leader, though he did not run in the leadership contest to replace Mr Johnson.

Mr Ellwood is a former Army captain who made headlines in 2017 when he went to the aid of PC Keith Palmer who had been fatally stabbed by terrorist Khalid Masood outside the Palace of Westminster.

He was veterans minister at the Ministry of Defence under Theresa May but returned to the backbenches to lead the defence committee after Mr Johnson took office. 

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: ‘It is telling that Boris Johnson acted swiftly to punish Tobias Ellwood this time, but dragged his feet for days when it came to suspending the whip from his loyal supporter Chris Pincher.

‘This petty act shows there is no room in the Conservatives any more for those who refuse to prop up Johnson.

‘The Conservative leadership candidates should condemn this move and make clear they will restore the whip to Tobias Ellwood. 

‘Anything less would show they are all just as bad as Johnson and will continue his failed record on sleaze, the NHS and cost of living.’

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