Charles Walker MP: BBC interview explained - what Tory backbencher said about Liz Truss and voting record

Sir Charles Walker said he was “livid” with his party and that he’s “had enough of talentless people”

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A Conservative backbencher has branded the Truss government “an absolute disgrace” and said he has “had enough of talentless people”.

Sir Charles Walker lashed out after Tory MPs were allegedly “manhandled” and “bullied” in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening during a vote on fracking.

The former vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs said he was “livid” about recent turmoil and warned that unless the party starts to “behave like grown-ups” then “perhaps 200” MPs could find themselves out of jobs.

Sir Charles Walker lashed out after Tory MPs were allegedly “manhandled” in the Commons on Wednesday (Composite: Mark Hall / NationalWorld)Sir Charles Walker lashed out after Tory MPs were allegedly “manhandled” in the Commons on Wednesday (Composite: Mark Hall / NationalWorld)
Sir Charles Walker lashed out after Tory MPs were allegedly “manhandled” in the Commons on Wednesday (Composite: Mark Hall / NationalWorld)

What happened in Parliament?

Chaos erupted in the House of Commons on Wednesday shortly before a vote on fracking at 7pm after climate minister Graham Stuart announced that, contrary to what MPs had been told earlier, it was not being treated as a vote of confidence in the government of Liz Truss.

Until that point, Tory MPs had been on notice that they would have the whip withdrawn and be expelled from the parliamentary party if they failed to support the government.

No 10 later said Stuart had been “mistakenly” told by Downing Street to say the vote should not be treated as a confidence motion, and that Tory MPs were “fully aware” it was subject to a three-line whip.

A spokesman said the chief and deputy whip would be speaking to the Tories who failed to support the government and those without a “reasonable excuse” would face “proportionate disciplinary action”.

In extraordinary scenes at Westminster, Cabinet ministers Therese Coffey and Jacob Rees-Mogg were among a group of senior Tories accused of pressuring colleagues to go into the “no” lobby.

Labour former minister Chris Bryant claimed some MPs were “physically manhandled into another lobby and being bullied”.

Business Secretary Rees-Mogg insisted he had seen no evidence of anyone being manhandled, but Sir Charles said what took place was “inexcusable” and “a pitiful reflection on the Conservative Parliamentary Party”.

Sir Charles Walker said he was “livid” with his party (Photo: PA)Sir Charles Walker said he was “livid” with his party (Photo: PA)
Sir Charles Walker said he was “livid” with his party (Photo: PA)

What did Sir Charles Walker say?

Sir Charles, MP for Broxbourne, said he was “livid” about the recent turmoil and condemned the scenes in the Commons on Wednesday as “inexcusable”.

The senior MP warned that backbenchers were going to lose their seats because of the “utterly appalling” Truss administration, adding that those who helped put her into power as Prime Minister have a lot to answer for.

He was talking after Labour’s fracking ban motion was defeated by 230 votes to 326, with the division list showing around 40 Conservative MPs did not vote, although many of them would have had permission to be absent.

Speaking after the defeat, Sir Charles told BBC News: “To be perfectly honest, this whole affair is inexcusable. It is a pitiful reflection on the Conservative Parliamentary Party at every level and it reflects really badly, obviously, on the government of the day.”

He added: “I’ve really not seen anything like tonight. What I understand is that we were on a confidence vote, which means if you voted against your government, you’d lose the whip because, in essence, you were saying you had no confidence in the government.

“Then at the despatch box, in the wind-up, the minister said it wasn’t a confidence vote, which created chaos in the division lobbies. There was then a sort of 20-minute delay between the vote happening and the result being announced which, by the way, wasn’t even close.

“The government won it by nearly 100 votes. But I just think the whole thing is extraordinary. And somewhere in between this, the vote being called and the result being announced, the chief whip resigned. But I just think the whole thing is extraordinary.”

At that point rumours that the chief whip had resigned were not being officially denied, he added. Later at 9.49pm – more than two hours after the vote – No 10 issued a statement confirming that both whips remained in post.

Asked if there is any coming back from this, Sir Charles, visibly angry, said: “I don’t think so. And I have to say I’ve been of that view really since two weeks ago.

“This is an absolute disgrace. As a Tory MP of 17 years who’s never been a minister, who’s got on with it loyally most of the time, I think it’s a shambles and a disgrace. I think it is utterly appalling. I’m livid.

"And you know, I really shouldn’t say this but I hope all the people that put Liz Truss into Number 10, I hope it was worth it, I hope it was worth it for the ministerial red box, I hope it was worth it to sit round the Cabinet table because the damage they have done to our party is extraordinary.

"I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough of talentless people putting their tick in the right box, not because it’s in the national interest but because it’s in their own personal interest to achieve ministerial position.

“And I know I speak for hundreds of backbenchers who right now are worrying for their constituents all the time but are now worrying for their own personal circumstances because there is nothing as ex as an ex-MP."

Sir Charles said MPs now needed to act like “grown-ups” if the party is to stay in power, adding that he is leaving Parliament voluntarily at the next general election.

He said: “A lot of my colleagues are wondering, as many of their constituents are wondering, how they are going to pay their mortgages if this comes to an end soon. I’m leaving Parliament at the next general election and I’m leaving voluntarily.

“But unless we get our act together and behave like grown-ups I’m afraid many hundreds of my colleagues, perhaps 200, will be leaving at the behest of their electorate. Patience reached the limit.”

Sir Charles voted ‘no’ on the motion to ban fracking for shale gas bill on Wednesday. He previously backed holding a referendum to leave the European Union and has voted in favour of extending same-sex marriage to England and Wales.

He served as chair of the House of Commons Procedure Committee from 2012 to 2019 and has been an MP for Broxbourne in Hertfordshire since 2005.

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