Inside the night of chaos in Commons that left Liz Truss on the brink

‘I had MPs crying on my shoulder’: Inside the undignified scrum in the Commons that saw Truss’s situation become ‘terminal’ on night of chaos, a three-hour battle to stop the chief whip resigning – all while ministers issued toe-curling denials of anarchy

  • There were multiple reports of ‘shouting’, ‘bullying’ and ‘manhandling’ by MPs during Commons fracking vote
  • Chris Bryant said he saw Thérèse Coffey taking one MP through. Labur MP said Tories were left sobbing
  • The government defeated Labour’s motion last night – but MPs reportedly barracked their own Prime Minister
  • There was also confusion over whether her chief whip Wendy Morton and her deputy Craig Whittaker quit
  • No 10 insisted that it was a confidence vote and rebels would be punished only for minister to undermine this 

Liz Truss’ premiership appears to be in its death throes today after an anarchic 12 hours that saw her Home Secretary resign, reports of tears and tear-ups in the Commons over fracking and the Tory leader apparently chasing the Tory chief whip while begging her not to resign as her own MPs called yelled ‘shambles’ in her face.

Ms Truss may soon be the shortest serving Prime Minister in history with some of her MPs calling on her to go this morning ‘in order to stop the shambles’ and Tory backbencher Simon Hoare declared that she has just 12 hours to save her job.

But admitting her survival looks unlikely, Mr Hoare said: ‘The unsettling thing is that there isn’t a route plan – it is hand to hand fighting on a day to day basis’.

After just six weeks in the job, her power further drained away when Suella Braverman quit at 5pm last night, apparently after a 90-minute screaming match that was apparently heard reverberating through the office door and into No 10. And around two hours later it all kicked off in the Commons for a fracking vote billed by Downing Street as a confidence vote in the Prime Minister.

Labour MP Chris Bryant said that some Conservatives were ‘physically manhandled into another lobby and being bullied’ and revealed that he had ‘utterly desperate’ Tory MPs ‘crying on my shoulder’.

Chief Whip Wendy Morton and her deputy Craig Whittaker then appeared to quit after Truss reversed her plan to expel Tory MPs who voted against the Government on fracking. At 1.30am this morning Downing Street then insisted it was a confidence vote only for a minister to go on TV at 7.30am to say that it wasn’t, as party discipline imploded.

Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan also repeatedly refused – including four times on the Today programme – to say if Liz Truss would lead the Tories into the next election.

Amid chaotic scenes in the Commons, Deputy Prime Minister Therese Coffey and Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg were accused of ‘manhandling’ MPs through the voting lobbies – a claim both ministers denied. As Government discipline collapsed, Mr Whittaker was heard telling his colleagues: ‘I am f***ing furious and I don’t give a f*** any more.’ 

Tory MPs were seen shouting at an ashen-faced Miss Truss: ‘It’s a shambles.’ The PM was apparently seen running after her chief whip begging her not to quit while she was barracked by her own backbenchers. Jacob Rees-Mogg later revealed he had no idea if the party still had a chief whip.

And today there is still confusion over whether Ms Morton and Mr Whittaker are in post.  Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the chief whip did not resign after last night’s Commons vote, to her knowledge. Asked if Wendy Morton quit on Wednesday evening, she said: ‘Not that I’m aware of, no.’

And Ms Trevelyan would only says that she believes, ‘at the moment’, it is ‘still the case’ Liz Truss will fight the next election as Prime Minister with some claiming that her new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Ms Braverman’s replacement Grant Shapps are now in charge. Others say that Rishi Sunak should be given the job.

Liz Truss arrives at the Houses of Parliament last night where Tory discipline vanished and she was yelled at by her own MPs

Labour MP Chris Bryant shared this photo on Twitter that he says shows Jacob Rees-Mogg and Therese Coffey walking Tory MP Alex Stafford through the lobby to vote against Labour’s motion on fracking. There were claims that MPs were being bullied and manhandled

Chris Bryant speaks to the Deputy Speaker in the House of Commons, demanding an investigation into the goings-on within the lobby

Pressed on whether Ms Morton resigned at any time and then was convinced to return to her post, Ms Trevelyan told Sky News: ‘So, I wasn’t there. I voted early in the lobbies and then had important security issues to deal with at the Department (for) Transport.

The chaotic evening at Westminster that left Liz Truss on the brink 

October 19

4.55pm: Home Secretary Suella Braverman resigns.

The popular figure among the Tory right told Ms Truss she had made a ‘technical infringement’ of the rules by sending an official document from a personal email and was now taking responsibility.

‘I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign,’ she wrote in a barely-coded dig at the Prime Minister whose disastrous mini-budget sparked financial turmoil.

In her resignation letter, she added an attack on Truss, declaring: ‘The business of government relies upon people accepting responsibility for their mistakes.

‘Pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can’t see that we have made them, and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics.

7.43pm: Chaos breaks out in the voting lobby of the Commons.

Deputy PM Therese Coffey and Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg faced claims that they were present when Conservative backbencher Alex Stafford was ‘physically pulled’ into a voting lobby.

There were also allegations of shouting and finger-pointing which left some Tory MPs in tears during turbulent scenes in the Commons after they were ordered to support fracking against their wishes. In another dramatic twist, Conservative Chief Whip Wendy Morton was said to have quit on the spot after she was undermined by a last-minute change in the terms of the vote by Downing Street, which appeared to mean it was no longer a confidence vote in the Government.

Meanwhile her deputy Craig Whittaker was seen storming out of the lobby and declaring: ‘I am ****ing furious and I don’t give a **** any more.’

8.10pm: Sir Charles Walker, the MP for Broxbourne, told BBC News: ‘I really shouldn’t say this but I hope that all those people that put Liz Truss in Number 10, I hope it was worth it.

‘I hope it was worth it for the ministerial red box.

‘I hope it was worth it to sit around the Cabinet table, because the damage they have done to our party is extraordinary.’

9pm: Labour’s motion to secure Commons time to consider legislation to ban fracking was defeated by 230 votes to 326, majority 96.

October 20 

1.30am: Downing St says the fracking vote was a confidence vote – and those who opposed the Government will be punished

7.30am: Asked if it was a confidence vote, Transport Secretary Anne Marie Trevelyan tells Sky: ‘No.’ She said ‘most’ rebels will have ‘very strong constituency reasons’ for breaking the whip.

‘So I didn’t follow the machinations in detail. I’m afraid I was busy doing my job. But as is clear, they are both in post and that’s good news.’

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt said Liz Truss’s position is ‘wholly untenable’.

Asked how he would describe her position on Thursday morning, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Wholly untenable. And if she doesn’t understand that then I would be astonished.

‘But one of the qualities she has shown is a lack of self-knowledge to this whole process, because it ought to have been clear that she did not have the capacity to lead our party and I don’t think she should have put herself up for the leadership in the first place.

‘All of that has now been confirmed. It’s plain what is required. We need to affect a change, frankly, today, in order to stop this shambles and give our country the governance it needs under our constitution.’

He said there is an ‘obvious’ choice for who should be the next prime minister – Jeremy Hunt or Rishi Sunak.

Mr Bryant said he has never seen scenes like the ones that unfolded ahead of the fracking vote in the Commons on Wednesday.

The MP of 21 years told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I have never seen scenes like that, and lots of other MPs have said the same, including you know Charles Walker was saying pretty much the same last night.

‘Honestly, this was the most extraordinary scene that I’ve seen in my time, and anyway, even if it has happened in the past, that is not how we should do our business – we are not the Italian parliament – and all of this is happening because there is complete chaos in Government. There isn’t a Government.

‘And when the thread of Government sort of falls apart, this is what will end up happening day in day out: you will just have complete and utter chaos.

‘I had Tory MPs later in the evening literally, including one whip actually, crying on my shoulder.

‘They are in the territory of being utterly desperate about what’s going on.’

In an astonishing few hours, she sacked Suella Braverman after a 90-minute ‘shouting match’ – and saw her Chief Whip ‘resign’.

The ousted Home Secretary launched an outspoken attack on the PM, accusing her of breaking key pledges and wobbling over manifesto commitments such as reduced migration.

One Cabinet ally of the PM said it looked impossible for her to recover her authority, adding: ‘It feels like it’s over.’

Senior Tory MPs were urgently discussing strategies for ousting Miss Truss, although the precise timing and mechanism remain unclear – as does the question of who might succeed her.

Some MPs believe her authority is draining away so quickly that she will be forced to resign by the weekend, possibly as early as today.

The departure of Mrs Braverman came just five days after Mr Kwarteng was sacked in the wake of the market turmoil triggered by last month’s emergency Budget.

A source said the email she sent from her phone about immigration policy was a ‘clear breach’ of the ministerial code’s requirement to respect confidentiality.

Mrs Braverman last night acknowledged the ‘mistake’ but said the policy was due to be announced ‘imminently’, and that much of it had already been briefed to MPs.

One Whitehall source said the ‘trivial’ episode appeared to be a pretext for removing a senior minister who had made no secret of her continuing leadership ambitions.

‘She’s obviously gone because of a bust-up,’ the source said. ‘She was always a flight risk, like Penny Mordaunt – she’s positioning herself for what’s to come.’ Two sources said the Home Secretary’s departure followed a meeting between the pair the previous evening over immigration policy.

One described the 90-minute encounter as a ‘shouting match’, saying raised voices could be heard outside.

Another said Mrs Braverman was furious at being asked to relax immigration rules in order to boost economic growth and satisfy the Office for Budget Responsibility that the Government’s economic plans added up.

A source said she told Miss Truss the idea was ‘insane, adding: ‘Are we just going to junk every manifesto commitment going?’

Mrs Braverman has also clashed with the PM over her plan to relax visa rules as part of a major trade deal with India. Downing Street is now braced for the possibility of a resignation speech in the Commons from Mrs Braverman later today.

Miss Truss is said to have initially planned to appoint Mr Javid as Home Secretary, a role he has filled before.

But the two were locked in stand-off because of the briefing row over which has seen Truss’ aide Jason Stein suspended.

Some MPs believe her authority is draining away so quickly that she will be forced to resign by the weekend, possibly as early as today.

Downing Street said Mrs Braverman, the shortest serving Home Secretary of modern times, had resigned after sending a confidential document to a Tory MP in breach of the ministerial code.

But multiple sources said her departure followed a ‘fiery’ 90-minute meeting between the pair in No 10 the previous night in which the Home Secretary warned the PM it would be ‘insane’ to relax immigration rules in order to boost economic growth. In an explosive resignation letter last night Mrs Braverman suggested that the PM should quit and savaged her record.

‘It is obvious to everyone that we are going through a tumultuous time,’ she wrote. ‘I have concerns about the direction of this Government. Not only have we broken key pledges that were promised to our voters, but I have had serious concerns about this Government’s commitment to honouring manifesto commitments, such as reducing overall migration numbers.’

The Deputy Prime Minister and at least one other Cabinet member were personally involved in ‘manhandling’ Conservative MPs through the lobby to vote against Labour’s motion to ban fracking, Labour MP Chris Bryant has said. 

The vote turned into chaos after climate minister Graham Stuart caused confusion by telling the Commons as the debate ended: ‘Quite clearly this is not a confidence vote.’

This was in direct contradiction to earlier briefings, when Conservative whips initially stated the vote was being treated as a ‘confidence motion’ in Liz Truss’s embattled Government.

But when Conservative MP Ruth Edwards (Rushcliffe) asked to clarify if those Tories who abstain or vote against the motion will lose the party whip, Mr Stuart added: ‘That is a matter for party managers, and I am not a party manager.’

The Government defeated Labour’s bid to ban fracking amid farcical scenes in the House of Commons this evening.

Allegations of bullying were levelled against Government whips, with Labour former minister Chris Bryant saying some MPs had been ‘physically manhandled into another lobby and being bullied’.

He told Sky he had seen Conservative MP Alex Stafford being ‘manhandled’ through the lobby by a group of MPs which included Therese Coffey, Deputy Prime Minister, and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

But Mr Stafford later tweeted that ‘no-one pushes me around’ in a denial of Mr Bryant’s version of events. 

Sources close to Deputy PM Therese Coffey have also denied that she was involved in any ‘manhandling’.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has also denied the claims, saying there was a ‘heated exchange’ but no bullying. 

He said: ‘There were discussions going on, and there was a discussion about the vote that was taking place, and this was what normally goes on outside the division lobby.’

‘I heard one person swear and use an expletive… a Conservative, when going into the division lobby, swear and say, sort of, ‘get on with it’, but he wasn’t saying it to an individual.

‘I didn’t see any bullying and I saw nobody being manhandled.’

Mr Rees-Mogg said there had been ‘confusion’ after a ‘junior official’ from No 10 had relayed a message to the Government front bench that it was no longer a confidence vote.

‘Nobody else was aware of that. Most members thought it was a vote of confidence,’ he said.

Mr Bryant told the Speaker in the moments after the vote result was announced: ‘I would urge you to launch an investigation into the scenes outside the lobby earlier. As you know members are supposed to be able to vote without fear or favour.

‘And the behaviour code which is agreed by the whole of the house says there will never be bullying or harassment of members.

‘I saw members being physically manhandled into another lobby and being bullied

‘If we want to stand up against bullying in this house of our staff, we have to stop bullying in this chamber.’

While Mr Bryant was speaking, several other Labour MPs sitting behind him could be heard alleging some of those forced through to vote by Conservatives were ‘crying’.

He added to Sky News: ‘In the area just as you go into the no lobby, which is where the Tory whips were gathered, the MPs were clearly uncertain whether they were allowed to vote with the Labour motion or against it because of what had been said in the chamber…

‘There was a group including several Cabinet members who were basically shouting at them and at least one member was physically pulled through the door into the voting lobby.

‘That is completely out of order in our system.

‘I have never ever seen a member physically manhandled through a division lobby.

‘Four members I think it was. I know Therese Coffey was in the group and Jacob Rees-Mogg was in the group, and there were others as well.

‘The group all moved forward with the one member, and that person was, to my mind, he will have to speak for himself, he was to my mind physically manhandled into the lobby.’

He named the MP in question as Alexander Stafford, but Mr Stafford has since said on Twitter that ‘no-one pushes me around’.

Liz Truss is on record as having not voted last night – after whips were threatening to remove the whip from any MP who didn’t vote against the motion. 

He added he has photos of the scenes in the lobby which he will pass on to the Speaker and Deputy. 

Mr Bryant also said that before MPs allegedly resorted to manhandling, there was ‘very aggressive’ pointing.

He concluded: ‘I’ve been an MP for 21 years. I’ve never seen that.’ 

It was thought that both Chief Conservative Whip Wendy Morton and her deputy Craig Whittaker had quit their roles after the shambolic vote, after multiple sources said Ms Morton walked into the lobby area and said: ‘I’m no longer the Chief Whip’ before storming out, followed by Liz Truss.

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg was asked live on Sky News whether the Chief Whip remained in post, to which he said he did not know. 

After more than two hours, No10 confirmed shortly before 10pm on Thursday that both the Chief Whip and Deputy remain in post. 

One miserable Cabinet source told MailOnline: ‘At this rate I’m going to be PM by Christmas.

‘The writing was on the wall for Wendy since the day of her appointment.’

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said he was ‘not entirely clear what the situation is with chief whip’.

Meanwhile Chris Walker, a Conservative MP of 17 years, told the BBC: ‘This whole affair is inexcusable. It is a pitiful reflection on the Conservative Party.’

When asked whether there is a way back for the government, Mr Walker said: ‘I don’t think so.’

He added: ‘This is an absolute disgrace.

‘I think it’s a shambles and a disgrace. I am livid.

‘I hope all those people who put Liz Truss in No.10 I hope it was worth it. […] Because the damage they have done to our party is extraordinary.’

‘I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of talentless people putting their tick in the right box, not because it’s in the national interest, but because it’s in their personal interest.’ 

But former Culture Secretary described Mr Bryant’s comments as ‘nonsense’, despite dozens of tweets from MPs in the lobby at the time which appear to back up his claims. 

Earlier, Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg sought to limit the rebellion by insisting communities will have a ‘veto’ on fracking in their area.

He said national government would be unable to overrule the objections from communities, with one option under consideration involving local referendums for areas where fracking is proposed.

Mr Rees-Mogg, in a message directed at Conservative MPs, told the Commons: ‘There’s an absolute local consent lock.

‘Any process to determine local consent must be run independently and this House will vote on any scheme that we bring forward.’

Labour’s motion was defeated by 230 votes to 326, majority 96, but the Commons heard there were ‘very strong rumours’ the Government chief whip Wendy Morton had resigned.

Liz Truss’s government was in the grip of a wider massive meltdown after Suella Braverman quit as home secretary just hours before the Chief Whip left too.

In yet another day of madness in Westminster Ms Braverman was removed for breaching protocol by sending an email from her personal account to a contact revealing details of an announcement on immigration policy.

It is unclear whether she resigned herself or was asked to by the Prime Minister. 

But in another hammer blow for the PM’s chances of clinging on, she also complained that the government was breaking promises. She swiped that when people made ‘mistakes’ – something Ms Truss has admitted – the right thing to do was quit.

Ms Truss responded with a much briefer letter saying it is ‘important the Ministerial Code is upheld’ and quickly installed Grant Shapps – a Rishi Sunak supporter – as a replacement.

But the feeling of a rudderless government later deepened in the Commons. In another sign of evaporating Government control, 40 MPs refused to back the government in a vote over fracking.

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