When the 9 members of the effective Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) of parliament submitted into the Macmillan Space of Portcullis House at 5pm for the first conference of the brand-new committee, Chris Grayling believed he had the chairmanship in the bag.
After all, the former Cabinet minister and Brexiteer was Boris Johnson’s option – controversially, provided his record in federal government and absence of proficiency on intelligence and security – and he had actually currently chosen himself the day previously.
Absolutely Nothing could fail, he should have believed, since the Tories had a five-four bulk on the nine-member committee.
However Mr Grayling and the federal government whips had actually both made a significant oversight. Neither had actually sounded out the senior Tory backbencher Dr Julian Lewis and ensured that he was going to vote for Mr Grayling.
And when the committee clerk asked at the start of the conference if there were any more elections for chairman, Dr Lewis chose himself and was right away backed by the 3 Labour and one Scottish National Party member.
Result: 5-4 to Dr Lewis, leaving Mr Grayling – cruelly lampooned as “failing Grayling” after his accident-prone Cabinet profession – and the prime minister embarrassed, and the Number 10 machine who were so desperate to see their loyalist election elected definitely furious.
“Grayling is the only person ever to have lost a rigged election,” stated one Tory MP.
Mr Grayling had actually been assailed. It had actually been a bloodless coup. That was about to alter.
Within an hour of the definitive vote in the Macmillan Space, it emerged that the committee would reunite at 10 am the following early morning and likely consent to release the committee’s long-suppressed report on claims of Russian meddling in UK politics.
However a crisis for the prime minister was then right away developed into a drama by Number 10, when Dr Lewis was notified by the federal government’s big bruiser of a Chief Whip, Mark Spencer, that he had actually been tossed out of the Tory parliamentary party.
Dr Lewis had actually the whip withdrawn, federal government sources informed Sky News, “for working with Labour and other opposition MPs for his own advantage”.
Another source stated: “There are consequences for that duplicity.”
The decision sent out shockwaves through Westminster.
“This is gangster politics,” one member of the committee was reported to have actually stated.
The agreement amongst lots of MPs was that Number 10 was guilty of a enormous overreaction which has actually made what was just a reasonably bad situation much, much worse.
Dr Lewis has actually suffered the fate of the 21 pro-Remain Tory MPs who defied Mr Johnson in Brexit votes in 2015, consisting of – in a tasty paradox – the former chairman of the ISC, Dominic Grieve.
One senior MP informed Sky News: “This would have blown over in a couple of days. Now there will be a substantial row throughout the weekend and into next week.
” Getting rid of the whip from Julian likewise enormously reinforces his authority and enhances his self-reliance from the federal government.
“He is also very popular with the Tory old guard on the back benches, the old knights of the shires, the Thatcherites and the veteran Brexiteers. He’s one of them and they won’t like it.”
Dr Lewis is undoubtedly popular with MPs on both sides of your house.
He was a effective chairman of the Defence Select Committee for 4 years. He is independent-minded and, in spite of being a Brexiteer, was a big protector of John Bercow throughout the former speaker’s battles with Mr Johnson in 2015.
MPs blame the prime minister’s questionable advisor, Dominic Cummings, for Number 10’s brutal revenge on Dr Lewis.
“This isn’t the Chief Whip’s decision,” one senior MP informed SkyNews
“It’s Cummings. And it’s absolutely bonkers.”
Number 10’s retribution versus Dr Lewis might not be over.
The guidelines governing the ISC, in the Justice and Security Act of 2013, state that the chairman is elected for the entire parliament, up until the next election.
However there is currently talk of the federal government tabling a Committee of Choice movement, which can be discussed for as much as 90 minutes and after that voted on by MPs, getting rid of Dr Lewis from the committee and changing him with another Tory MP.
That would trigger a substantial row. Would the PM, in his existing belligerent state of mind, care?
And in the chamber, obviously, Mr Johnson has a bulk of80 Well, he did. It’s down to 78 now, with Dr Lewis probably crossing the flooring to sit with the opposition.
One MP even recommended the PM could opt for the nuclear choice of eliminating the Intelligence and Security Committee completely.
Out of the concern? Most likely not while Mr Cummings is recommending Mr Johnson.
Regardless of his embarrassment, Mr Grayling stays a member of the committee and could yet – in theory – still end up being chairman if Dr Lewis is kicked of the committee and changed by a Johnson follower.
Besides Mr Grayling, the other outvoted Tories are another ex-Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers, ex-minister Sir John Hayes and backbencher Mark Pritchard.
It was Labour MPs Dame Diane Johnson and Kevan Jones, Labour peer Lord West and SNP MP Steward Hosie who backed Dr Lewis.
When Dr Lewis strolled into the Macmilan Space in Portcullis House at 5pm, he certainly understood he had the assistance of the opposition MPs on the committee.
However with Boris Johnson in cruel state of mind, he might need the assistance of lots of other Tory MPs if he is to endure this battle to the death with the prime minister.