There were farcical scenes in Westminster as the UK Government appeared to perform another U-turn on a threat to strip the whip from Conservative MPs if they backed a fracking ban, after a series of Tories signalled they would not take part in the vote. The Scottish First Minister tweeted: “An utter shambles. This can’t go on. General Election now.”
As the turmoil in Westminster gathered pace after Suella Braverman’s resignation as home secretary and the Government pushing through the fracking vote, Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said: “Liz Truss needs to go, and she needs to go now.”
The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber added: “The utter chaos at the centre of the Tory Government cannot continue any longer. It’s wrecking the economy and damaging people’s mortgages, pensions and incomes. If she had an ounce of decency, or any self-respect, the Prime Minister would resign before she is inevitably forced from office. And then there must be an election.”
Labour’s fracking ban motion was defeated by 230 votes to 326 – a majority of 96 – with the division list showing dozens of Conservative MPs did not take part in the vote.
Unverified reports suggest the deputy chief whip, Craig Whittaker, told his colleagues: “I am f****** furious and I don’t give a f*** any more.” He and chief whip Wendy Morton reportedly quit amid the chaos.
Mr Whittaker had issued a “100% hard” three-line whip, meaning any Tory MP who rebelled could be thrown out of the parliamentary party. But climate minister Graham Stuart caused confusion by telling the Commons minutes before the vote that “quite clearly this is not a confidence vote”. Allegations of bullying were levelled against Government whips, with Labour former minister Chris Bryant saying some MPs had been “physically manhandled”.