Tobias Ellwood stripped of Tory whip – now unable to back Mordaunt in leadership ballot | Politics News

Senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood has had his whip removed – and will now not be able to vote in the party’s leadership ballot.

The move is a punishment after Mr Ellwood failed to take part in yesterday’s confidence vote in the government.

Mr Ellwood, chairman of the influential defence select committee, said he is “very sorry” to lose the Tory whip but argued he was unable to return from a meeting with the president of Moldova due to “unprecedented disruption”.

Sky News understands the move means Mr Ellwood will not be able to vote in the fourth round ballot of the Conservative leadership contest this afternoon.

Mr Ellwood, a long-time critic of Boris Johnson, has been supporting former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt in the leadership race.

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In a statement, he 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.”

Mr Ellwood was not the only Conservative MP to miss Monday’s confidence vote, but a Conservative source said all other Tory MPs who were absent for reasons such as family illness were paired appropriately as agreed by the whips – meaning another individual voted on their behalf.

“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,” the Tory source said.

Losing the whip effectively means that an MP is expelled from their party because they have not followed strict instruction from the leadership.

They do not lose their seat and will remain as an MP.

But, until the whip is restored, they will sit as an independent in the commons.

Responding to a claim on social media that the move was carried out as part of an attempt by Mr Johnson to help Liz Truss in the leadership race by removing a vote for Ms Mordaunt, Nadine Dorries said the allegation was “wholly untrue and frankly utterly ridiculous”.

“Every single MP of every party is under no illusion regarding the price to be paid in not voting during a government confidence motion,” the culture secretary posted on social media.

“It’s a very clearly defined and historic red line. Tobias could have voted like everyone else.”

Ms Mordaunt is seen as the greatest challenger to Ms Truss, who is being backed by Mr Johnson’s allies to make it into the final two vying for Number 10.

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain questioned why Mr Johnson removed the whip from Mr Ellwood so rapidly but “dragged his feet for days when it came to suspending the whip from his loyal supporter Chris Pincher” – who was eventually suspended over sexual assault claims.

“This petty act shows there is no room in the Conservatives any more for those who refuse to prop up Johnson,” she said.

“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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MPs voted 349 to 238, majority 111, to support the motion stating that the commons has confidence in the government on Monday evening.

The victory means that Mr Johnson is expected to continue in Downing Street until September, when Tory members chose the winner from the final two selected by Tory MPs.

Mr Ellwood was first elected in 2005 as Conservative MP for Bournemouth East.

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