September 2019 suspension of rebel Conservative MPs

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On 3 September 2019, the British Conservative Party withdrew the whip from 21 of its MPs who had supported an emergency motion to allow the House of Commons to undertake proceedings on the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill on 4 September.[1] In the hours after the vote, the Chief Whip Mark Spencer informed the rebel MPs that they were no longer entitled to sit as Conservatives.[2][3]

The suspended MPs included the Father of the House (Kenneth Clarke), two former Chancellors (Clarke and Philip Hammond), an additional seven former Cabinet members (Greg Clark, David Gauke, Justine Greening, Dominic Grieve, Oliver Letwin, Caroline Nokes and Rory Stewart), the grandson of Winston Churchill (Nicholas Soames) and 11 others.[4][5]

On 29 October 2019, 10 of the suspended MPs had the whip restored.[6] Four of these went on to contest the December 2019 election as Conservative candidates, retaining their seats, with the other six standing down at the election. Of the 11 who remained suspended, six declined to stand in the election, while five stood as independents or Liberal Democrats, all losing their seats.


In April 2019, the Speaker John Bercow allowed Sir Oliver Letwin to table a motion that would allow MPs to undertake proceedings on the second, committee, and third reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill (also known as the Cooper–Letwin Bill) in one day. The motion was passed by one vote.[7][8] Subsequently, the bill was passed as the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019.

Several of the MPs had voted for Theresa May's ultimately unsuccessful Withdrawal Agreement and subsequently continued to oppose a "no deal" Brexit scenario. They became known in the media as the "Gaukeward Squad" after their informal leader David Gauke.[9][10]

In September 2019, Bercow again permitted Letwin to introduce a motion under Standing Order No. 24 (SO No. 24) to take control of parliamentary business away from the government, this time to allow for the passage of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill, to be introduced by Hilary Benn on the following day.[11] In anticipation of the vote, the government whips' office announced that voting in favour of Letwin's motion would effectively be "destroying the government's negotiating position and handing control of parliament to Jeremy Corbyn." On that basis, those Conservative MPs supporting the motion would have the whip withdrawn.[12]

The rebel MPs[edit]

A total of 21 Conservative MPs voted for the motion. They were:

Portrait MP Constituency Party status 2019 general election
Official portrait of Guto Bebb crop 2.jpg Guto Bebb Aberconwy did not stand[13]
Official portrait of Richard Benyon crop 2.jpg Richard Benyon Newbury whip restored on 29 October 2019 did not stand[14]
Official portrait of Steve Brine crop 2.jpg Steve Brine Winchester whip restored on 29 October 2019 stood as a Conservative, won seat.[15]
Official portrait of Alistair Burt crop 2.jpg Alistair Burt North East Bedfordshire whip restored on 29 October 2019 did not stand[16]
Official portrait of Greg Clark crop 2.jpg Greg Clark Tunbridge Wells whip restored on 29 October 2019 stood as a Conservative,[17] won seat.
Official portrait of Mr Kenneth Clarke crop 2.jpg Kenneth Clarke Rushcliffe did not stand[18]
Official portrait of Mr David Gauke crop 2.jpg David Gauke South West Hertfordshire stood as an independent, lost seat to Conservatives
Official portrait of Justine Greening crop 2.jpg Justine Greening Putney did not stand[19]
Official portrait of Mr Dominic Grieve crop 2.jpg Dominic Grieve Beaconsfield stood as an independent,[20] lost seat to Conservatives
Official portrait of Mr Sam Gyimah crop 2.jpg Sam Gyimah East Surrey joined Liberal Democrats on 14 September 2019 stood as a Liberal Democrat in Kensington,[21] lost seat to Conservatives
Official portrait of Mr Philip Hammond crop 2.jpg Philip Hammond Runnymede and Weybridge did not stand[22]
Official portrait of Stephen Hammond crop 2.jpg Stephen Hammond Wimbledon whip restored on 29 October 2019 stood as a Conservative,[23] won seat
Official portrait of Richard Harrington crop 2.jpg Richard Harrington Watford whip restored on 29 October 2019 did not stand[24]
Official portrait of Margot James crop 2.jpg Margot James Stourbridge whip restored on 29 October 2019 did not stand[25]
Oliver Letwin Official.jpg Sir Oliver Letwin West Dorset did not stand[26]
Official portrait of Anne Milton crop 2.jpg Anne Milton Guildford stood as an independent,[27] lost seat to Conservatives
Official portrait of Caroline Nokes.jpg Caroline Nokes Romsey and Southampton North whip restored on 29 October 2019 stood as a Conservative, won seat[1]
Official portrait of Antoinette Sandbach crop 2.jpg Antoinette Sandbach Eddisbury joined Liberal Democrats on 31 October 2019[28] stood as a Liberal Democrat,[21] lost seat to Conservatives
Official portrait of Sir Nicholas Soames crop 2.jpg Sir Nicholas Soames Mid Sussex whip restored on 29 October 2019 did not stand[29]
Rory Stewart MP (cropped).jpg Rory Stewart Penrith and The Border did not stand[30]
Official portrait of Mr Edward Vaizey crop 2.jpg Ed Vaizey Wantage whip restored on 29 October 2019 did not stand[31]


On 5 September, the Universities Minister Jo Johnson, who is also the Prime Minister Boris Johnson's younger brother, announced his resignation from the Cabinet and that he would stand down as an MP at the next United Kingdom general election. The Daily Telegraph reported that Johnson's decision had been triggered by the suspension of Conservative MPs two days prior.[32]

Two days later, on 7 September, the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd resigned from the Cabinet and surrendered the Conservative whip in Parliament in protest at Boris Johnson's policy on Brexit and the treatment of the 21 rebel MPs.[33]

On 14 September, former Conservative leadership contender Sam Gyimah, who was one of the 21, joined the Liberal Democrats. On 4 October, the former Cabinet minister and former Conservative leadership contender Rory Stewart resigned from the Conservative Party, in order to stand as an independent candidate for Mayor of London.[34]

On 29 October, 10 of the MPs suspended from the party in September had the whip restored. They were Alistair Burt, Caroline Nokes, Greg Clark, Sir Nicholas Soames, Ed Vaizey, Margot James, Richard Benyon, Stephen Hammond, Stephen Brine and Richard Harrington.[6]

On 31 October, Antoinette Sandbach joined the Liberal Democrats.[28] On 5 November, Philip Hammond announced that he would stand down as an MP at the forthcoming general election.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "European Union (Withdrawal)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 664. Parliament of the United Kingdom: House of Commons. 3 September 2019. col. 132–136.
  2. ^ Mikhailova, Anna (4 September 2019). "Boris Johnson to strip 21 Tory MPs of the Tory whip in parliamentary bloodbath". Daily Telegraph.
  3. ^ Stewart, Heather; Walker, Peter (3 September 2019). "Boris Johnson to seek election after rebel Tories deliver Commons defeat". The Guardian.
  4. ^ Hossein-Pour, Anahita (4 September 2019). "Twenty-one Tory rebels lose party whip after backing bid to block no-deal Brexit". PoliticsHome.
  5. ^ Sandford, Alasdair; Crowcroft, Orlando (4 September 2019). "'No to no-deal Brexit': the 21 Tory rebels who defied Boris Johnson". Euronews.
  6. ^ a b "Whip restored to 10 Conservative MPs who rebelled against government over Brexit". ITV News. ITV. 29 October 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  7. ^ MacLellan, Kylie; James, William; MacAskill, Andrew (3 April 2019). "Lawmakers vote to go ahead with debate on Brexit delay law". Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  8. ^ "Business of the House motion". 3 April 2019. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  9. ^ BBC News
  10. ^ Telegraph
  11. ^ Johnston, John (2 September 2019). "EXPLAINED: How MPs 'last chance' bid to block no-deal Brexit could play out". PoliticsHome.
  12. ^ Elgot, Jessica (1 September 2019). "Johnson could sacrifice majority by withdrawing whip from rebel MPs". The Guardian.
  13. ^ Elgot, Jessica (14 July 2019). "Tory MP to stand down over grave concerns about Johnson as PM". The Guardian.
  14. ^ "STATEMENT FROM RT HON. RICHARD BENYON MP FOR NEWBURY | Richard Benyon MP". Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  15. ^ Steve Brine [@BrineMP] (1 November 2019). "Winter Tour (now to be known as General Election 2019) underway with a very busy street surgery in Winchester. Pleased to be reconfirmed as the Conservative Candidate last night and will be standing as a strong, experienced and principled MP on 12th December. #TeamSteve" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  16. ^ Sparrow, Andrew (3 September 2019). "Tory rebel Alistair Burt to stand down as MP at next election". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  17. ^ Greg Clark [@GregClarkMP] (6 November 2019). "It has been the privilege and honour of my life to represent #TunbridgeWells since 2005. I am extremely grateful to @TunbridgeW_CCA for choosing me as their candidate for #GE2019" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  18. ^ Walker, Peter (27 June 2019). "Veteran Tory MP Ken Clarke: 'I'm minded to step down now'". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  19. ^ Proctor, Kate. "Justine Greening to quit as Tory MP at next election". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  20. ^ Murphy, Joe (30 November 2019). "Dominic Grieve: Rebel MP to take on old party to stand as Independent at general election". Evening Standard. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidates". Mark Pack. 1 September 2019.
  22. ^ a b "General election 2019: Philip Hammond to stand down as MP". BBC News. 5 November 2019.
  23. ^ @MertonTories (1 November 2019). "Huge congratulations to @S_Hammond who was overwhelmingly readopted as the Conservative Candidate for Wimbledon this evening" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  24. ^ "Watford MP announces decision to STAND DOWN at next election". Watford Observer. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  25. ^ Sunday Times p1 3 November 2019
  26. ^ Speare-Cole, Rebecca (21 August 2019). "Tory grandee and chief Remainer Sir Oliver Letwin to stand down at next general election". Evening Standard. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  27. ^ Giles, Martin (5 November 2019). "Anne Milton 'Shakes off Shackles' of Party Politics to Stand as Independent". The Guildford Dragon.
  28. ^ a b "Ex-Tory MP Antoinette Sandbach joins Liberal Democrats". BBC News. BBC. 31 October 2019. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  29. ^ Newsnight [@BBCNewsnight] (3 September 2019). "Sir Nicholas Soames MP confirms to #Newsnight that he will not stand in the next general election. "I have been told by the chief whip… that I have had the whip removed after 37 years as a Conservative MP." "I'm not going to stand" @NSoames" (Tweet). Retrieved 3 September 2019 – via Twitter.
  30. ^ "Conservative MP Rory Stewart standing down". BBC News. 4 October 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  31. ^ edvaizey [@edvaizey] (6 November 2019). "After much reflection I have decided not to stand at the next election. I will campaign hard for my successor & look forward to @BorisJohnson and @conservatives winning a great majority. Thanks to all in Wantage & Didcot who supported me over so many years #vexit @edvaizey" (Tweet). Retrieved 6 November 2019 – via Twitter.
  32. ^ Mikhailova, Anna (5 September 2019). "Jo Johnson hands Labour propaganda coup as he resigns over brother Boris' Brexit policy". Daily Telegraph.
  33. ^ "Amber Rudd resigns from government". BBC News. 7 September 2019.
  34. ^ "Ex-Tory MP Rory Stewart stands down to run for London mayor". BBC News. BBC. 4 October 2019. Retrieved 28 October 2019.