Steerpike

Full text: Charles Walker accuses Boris Johnson of treating MPs like dogs

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Oh dear. It seems the whips failed to assuage Charles Walker, vice chair of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench Conservatives. The well-respected Brexiteer told of his frustration over Covid restrictions, as well as his concern over the controversial Internal Market Bill. And Walker certainly didn't pull his punches. He clearly wanted to send a message when he told the chamber: 'If you keep whacking a dog, don't be surprised when it bites you back.' 

This shouldn't have come as much of a surprise to Downing Street. Just a fortnight ago, the normally loyal Walker told the Observer that it was becoming increasingly difficult for MPs to defend the government, warning of 'eroded morale' among backbenchers. To get a sense of just how eroded that morale has become, here's his rather lively statement in full: 

I hope I'm not going to foul-tempered tonight. It's not a disposition I warm to. But Mr Deputy Speaker, there is a worrying trend – a worrying narrative emerging – and this is a good opportunity to get a lot of things on the record as I build an argument over the next two minutes, 45 seconds. 

First of all, I am extremely concerned that we are placing severe restrictions on people's liberties without any recourse to parliament. I would actually vote in certain circumstances to take people's liberties away if I thought it was in the national interest. But I would like to have the chance to debate it on the floor of the House, to represent the concerns of my constituents.

I'm also concerned that we go around arresting old men in Trafalgar Square for having a peaceful protest and fining them £10,000. I never thought I would ever be defending Mr Corbyn in the chamber of the House of Commons. But I am – I am defending a Corbyn. We've got to be allowed to protest without fear of arrest or being fined. 

And now today we hear that we're going to have the public being urged to inform on their friends and neighbours because granny's followed granddad into a family home of five. This is a profoundly unconservative thing. All of these things are unconservative. 

I do think being asked to put this country, this House, members of this House, our constituents, on the wrong side of the law, before we've exhausted all other options – and I'm no fan of the EU, I was in every single division lobby for Brexit, I think they're a pain in the neck – but surely we have to exhaust all other options before we press the nuclear button? 

I'm not going to be voting for this Bill at second reading because if you keep whacking a dog, don't be surprised when it bites you back. We are all members of parliament and we deserve to be taken seriously.

I accept there's a pandemic – a national crisis – but surely that is the time when our voices should be heard on behalf of our constituents? 

So I do hope the government goes away tonight, I do hope that the Prime Minister reflects on what is going on and listens to the concerns of this House, and comes back with a solution that allows me to skip through the division lobby at third reading and support him in this important Bill. Because I do believe, colleagues, that the Conservative party is the greatest party – the greatest political party ever – and we have to have the courage to live up to that greatness.

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.

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