Steerpike

Axed Tory whip probed by watchdog

Axed Tory whip probed by watchdog
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Cheer up Boris: at least there's one MP having a worse time than you. It's not been a great February so far for Craig Whittaker. The Tory MP for Calder Valley was just about the only member of the government to lose his job as a Whip last week in Boris Johnson's mini-reshuffle. The Prime Minister has so many enemies at the moment that he's reluctant to banish anyone to the backbenches but after nearly five years of loyal service, Whittaker departed as part of an overhaul of the Whips' Office which saw Chris Heaton-Harris become chief and Chris Pincher named his deputy. In a statement, Whittaker told local press that he was leaving for 'personal reasons' and that he remained '100 per cent supportive of the government.'

Now though, it seems that Whittaker's week has gone from bad to worse. Just five days after he departed as a Whip, Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, quietly launched an investigation into the recently-axed frontbencher. The reason given is 'use of the Crowned Portcullis' i.e. the emblem of both Houses of Parliament. This symbol is emblazoned on invitations and headed paper which MPs can use when sending correspondence. There are, however, strict rules governing its usage, with the Commons website warning MPs that:

The designs and symbols of the House should not be used for purposes to which such authentication is inappropriate, or where there is a risk that their use might wrongly be regarded, or represented, as having the authority of the House.

A spokesperson for the commissioner declined to provide Mr S with any further information. Those with long memories may recall that it was the use of House of Commons stationery which helped do for another Johnson ally, Conor Burns, some two years ago. Burns was forced to quit as a trade minister in May 2020 after Stone ruled that he had used Commons notepaper to intervene in his father’s dispute over the repayment of a loan.

First Whittaker loses his job and now he's under investigation. What next for the right-wing Tory?

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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