Oh dear. Boris Johnson’s decision to withdraw the whip from the Tory Brexit rebels continues to send ripples through Westminster. While Chief Whip Mark Spencer has laid out the appeals process to the rebels, many of their colleagues remain unhappy about the decision to remove them from the party.
Now things have taken a turn for the worse in the Tory Women in Parliament WhatsApp group. Originally, the group was used to share events and ideas amongst Tory women in the vote100 year, it was set up at the height of the Westminster bullying scandal and has since been used on occasion for Conservative women’s policy updates.
However, on Thursday evening, young female CCHQ staffers ended up being removed as admins and leaving the group over a backlash from female MPs after figures from CCHQ updated the group to reflect current staffers and MPs. As part of the update, female MPs who lost the Conservative whip over voting against the government anti-no deal legislation were removed from the group.
The decision did not land well with a number of current female Conservative MPs who accused CCHQ staffers of ‘sowing division’ at the behest of party chairman James Cleverly. Staff were forced to defend themselves and say it was a standard update to group membership, so not to inadvertently leak or cause security issues for MPs. A parliament staff source says the group was updated to ‘protect the security of those on it’.
In protest at the move to remove former Conservative female MPs, Tory MP Claire Perry wrote:
‘Hi all – just to say, I am very queasy about the removal of fantastic female colleagues and strong conservative advocates from this group. Plenty of other members have rebelled against three-line whips with impunity and repeatedly. I suggest a rapid rethink?’
She went on:
‘When Anne, Amber and I were whips I argued strongly that the whip should be stripped from the colleagues who colluded with the oppo and rebelled repeatedly on Europe.