Tory leadership rivals stick the knife into May

Theresa May was losing her grip on the Tory party last night as 16 ministers and aides were allowed to keep their jobs despite failing to vote with the Government. Four Cabinet ministers – David Mundell, Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Greg Clark – and Claire Perry, who attends Cabinet, abstained on the motion, which passed by 321 votes to 278 and makes a Brexit delay likely. The PM was battling on two fronts as six Cabinet members including Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid backed a hardline Brexiteer amendment, while Remainers including Amber Rudd pressed for a softer Brexit by abstaining on the No Deal motion.  Sarah Newton quit her job at the Department of Work and Pensions in order to defy the last-ditch Government whip and vote against No Deal. But other rebel ministers stayed in post despite ignoring a three-line whip, a course of action which would usually force them to quit. Tory MPs were ordered to vote against the No Deal motion after it was amended to rule out a cliff-edge Brexit in all circumstances. Ms Newton, a welfare minister, and Paul Masterton, an aide to the Home Secretary, voted for the motion and both resigned from their jobs. A source close to one Cabinet minister said: ‘A significant number of ministers made it clear that they couldn’t vote against [the motion] in these circumstances and it was understood that they would not have to.’ Mike Freer, a Government whip, also abstained. Remarkably he was allowed to remain in post despite breaking the whip he himself was meant to be impose.Amber Rudd (left) and David Gauke (right) were among the Cabinet ministers who abstained on the No Deal motion, ignoring a three-line Conservative whip Business Secretary Greg Clark (left) and Scotland Secretary David Mundell (right) also abstained on the No Deal motion which passed last night The rebels were joined by Solicitor General Robert Buckland, foreign minister Sir Alistair Burt, defence minister Tobias Ellwood, health minister Stephen Hammond, business minister Richard Harrington, skills minister Anne Milton, and digital minister Margot James.  Sarah Newton quit her Department of Work and Pensions job to defy a three-line whip and vote against no-deal BrexitIn a separate rebellion, six of Mrs May’s Cabinet ministers backed the so-called Malthouse compromise supported by Brexiteers. As Tory leadership rivals jockeyed for position, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Home Secretary Sajid Javid were among 164 MPs who voted in favour of the failed plan. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson also backed the Brexiteer amendment, as did Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, who challenged Mrs May for the leadership in 2016.Also walking through the ‘yes’ lobby were International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns.  The Malthouse Compromise, backed by Jacob Rees-Mogg, set out a plan to delay Brexit and find an alternative solution to the Irish backstop issue.Its backers want a ‘standstill’ agreement lasting as late as the end of 2021 but the EU has already rejected the idea, which it views as amounting to a transition period without a formal withdrawal agreement.  Possible Tory leadership candidates Jeremy Hunt (left) and Sajid Javid (right) both voted for the so-called Malthouse Compromise, a plan backed by hardline Brexiteers Former Tory leadership contender Andrea Leadsom (left) and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson (right) also backed the Malthouse compromise Ultimately, MPs rejected the plan by 374 votes to 164, but the decisions of a string of senior ministers to back the amendment will be seen as significant as uncertainty continues to surround the future of the Prime Minister. Ministers who backed it were not under pressure to resign because the vote was not whipped.  Among those who voted for the amendment were junior Brexit ministers Kwasi Kwarteng and Chris Heaton-Harris, security minister Ben Wallace and children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi.Three Government whips, Rebecca Harris, Paul Maynard and Iain Stewart, also voted for it.Brexiteers who voted for the amendment included Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Davis and Steve Baker.A Downing Street source last night said ‘voting against the Government is a resigning matter’, but refused to comment on those who abstained.  Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘I have never in 27 years as an MP seen anything like what is happening in Government.’How can the Government continue if collective responsibility has broken down and when whipped ministers deliberately abstain?’ Tory former minister James Duddridge tweeted: ‘How on earth can the Government ask backbenchers to support a three-line whip if Government ministers refuse to do so?’  Mr Masterton tweeted: ‘Tonight I took the difficult decision to vote against the Government on the final vote. I promised my constituents I would oppose No Deal. Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, said senior ministers and other top Tory figures needed to have a ‘conversation’ about Mrs May’s future if sh lost a strong of Brexit votes this week’But it cannot be wished away – the reality is we need to agree a deal and I continue to support the Prime Minister in seeking a way through.’ Cabinet ministers were earlier urged to tell Mrs May to step down if she loses more votes this week.     Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, said senior ministers and other top Tories should have a ‘conversation’ about her future if this week goes catastrophically wrong. Ms Morgan, a Remainer who has in recent weeks seemed to ally herself with hardcore Brexiteers to help generate the Malthouse Compromise plan for a managed no-deal Brexit, spoke against the Prime Minister on Newsnight.The Loughborough MP said: ‘I think her position is going to be very difficult if after the end of this week she has lost tonight and then the votes later on in the week go against her.’It will be up to the Cabinet to have that conversation. You have to do it as a collective, the Cabinet have to be working together on that.’The chief whip, the chair of the 1922 committee … If I was in Cabinet, I would be having those conversations.’ Meanwhile Chancellor Philip Hammond appeared to go off-script during his Spring Statement on Wednesday to make a veiled call for a softer Brexit.The unabashed Remainer called for a compromise on what the Commons can agree to in the national interest to avoid a no-deal Brexit.  Mr Hammond yesterday told MPs: ‘Tonight, we have a choice: we can remove the threat of an imminent no-deal exit hanging over our economy’Treasury sources were quick to jump on suggestions of a fresh rift at the top of Government after he pleaded with MPs to lift the ‘uncertainty’ that ‘hangs over’ the UK because of the no-deal threat. Mr Hammond had earlier warned Britain will face ‘significant disruption’ in the short and medium term if it crashes out of the European Union without a deal, as he called for no-deal to be taken off the table.The Chancellor, delivering his Spring Statement to MPs, said there would be a ‘smaller, less prosperous’ economy in the long term, with higher unemployment, lower wages and higher prices in shops. He said: ‘Our economy is fundamentally robust but the uncertainty that I hoped we would lift last night still hangs over it.’We cannot allow that to continue: it is damaging our economy and it is damaging our standing and reputation in the world.’Tonight, we have a choice: we can remove the threat of an imminent no-deal exit hanging over our economy.’Tomorrow, we will have the opportunity to start to map out a way forward – towards building a consensus across this House for a deal we can collectively support, to exit the EU in an orderly way to a future relationship that will allow Britain to flourish.’A Treasury source insisted Mr Hammond supported the Prime Minister’s deal, saying: ‘He has been very clear that he supports the PM’s deal but he has also been saying for months that compromise is how we get through this and he is calling for compromise.’ A host of senior Tory MPs are in the running to replace Theresa May before the next general election, including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab and Sajid Javid
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