Sexual misconduct, racism and bullying: 15 MPs currently sitting as independents after losing party whips

A disproportionate amount of suspended MPs were originally elected to represent Labour

Two MPs have had the whip removed following complaints, becoming the 14th and 15th MPs to sit as independents.

Senior Conservative Julian Knight has been suspended after the Metropolitan Police received a complaint relating to his conduct, while Labour has suspended Conor McGinn following a complaint received internally.

Knight is yet to comment on the suspension, while McGinn said he has not been told of the details of the allegation but was “confident that it is entirely unfounded”.

Of the 15 MPs currently sitting as independents, seven were elected as Labour MPs and five as Conservatives. At least five were suspended over allegations relating to sexual harassment or misconduct.

Conor McGinn and Julian Knight suspended

The Conservatives have removed the whip from Knight after a complaint was made to the Metropolitan Police, the party has said. Chief Whip Simon Hart took the action, meaning Knight no longer sits in the Commons as a Tory, after the complaint was said to have been lodged on Wednesday.

Knight is the chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee and has represented Solihull in the West Midlands since 2015.

The nature of the complaints against Conor McGinn (left) and Julian Knight (right) are currently unknown The nature of the complaints against Conor McGinn (left) and Julian Knight (right) are currently unknown
The nature of the complaints against Conor McGinn (left) and Julian Knight (right) are currently unknown

A spokeswoman for the Chief Whip declined to comment on the nature of the complaint. She said: “Following a complaint made to the Metropolitan Police this evening, we have removed the whip from Julian Knight MP with immediate effect.”

Labour suspended Conor McGinn’s membership on Wednesday while a complaint made to his party was being investigated. The MP for St Helens North, in Merseyside, said he has not been told of the details of the allegation but was “confident that it is entirely unfounded”.

There are now 15 MPs who were elected as members of a party but currently sit as independents after either being temporarily suspended from their respective parties or resigning. Of these, 10 became independent MPs this year.

Labour MPs

A disproportionate number are former Labour MPs, which could be in part attributable to Labour’s new complaints and disciplinary procedures which were introduced following Keir Starmer’s election as party leader, following criticisms of the previous system.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was the first MP to be suspended from the party under Starmer’s rule, over his response to a report into antisemitism within Labour, which Corbyn acknowledged as an issue but said had also been “dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media”.

Former Labour MP Claudia Webbe was expelled from the party in November 2021 after she was found guilty of harassment and given a suspended sentence.

Since then, another five Labour MPs have lost the party whip, including Neil Coyle who reportedly made racist remarks to a journalist in a Westminster bar, and Rupa Huq, after she referred to then-Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng as “superficially black” at a Labour conference fringe event.

Christina Rees was suspended in October over allegations of bullying, while former Labour Whip Nick Brown and now Conor McGinn have both been suspended pending investigations into complaints of an unknown nature.

Conservative MPs

The nature of the complaint filed with the Metropolitan Police into Julian Knight is currently unknown, but he becomes the fourth Conservative to have the whip suspended this year.

Matt Hancock was suspended after he announced he would take part in ITV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!’ reality series, for which he will reportedly receive around £400,000. He has said he will stand down as an MP at the next election.

David Warburton and Chris Pincher both lost the Conservative whip this year following allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment. Investigations are ongoing in each case.  Pincher had previously been suspended from the party in 2017 after a former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate claimed Pincher has sexually assaulted him.

Conor Burns was suspended over accusations of sexual misconduct in October, but he had the whip restored this week after an internal investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Former Conservative MP Rob Roberts has sat as an independent since May 2021, after an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards upheld allegations of sexual misconduct against him, after the MP made repeated and unwanted advances to a member of his staff.

Other MPs have resigned or not had the whip suspended following claims of misconduct. An unnamed Conservative MP was arrested in May on suspicion of rape.

He has not had the whip suspended, but has been told to stay away from Parliament. Former Wakefield MP, Imran Ahmad Khan resigned earlier in the year after being convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy. Neil Parish also quit as an MP after being caught watching porn in the House of Commons twice.

SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs

Margaret Ferrier lost the SNP whip after it emerged she had broken Covid lockdown restrictions by opting to travel on a train from London to Scotland after testing positive for the virus in October 2020.

The SNP’s former chief whip Patrick Grady resigned from the party in June following historical allegations of sexual assault dating back to 2016, with the victim first raising a complaint in 2018.

Jonathan Edwards, elected as an MP for Plaid Cymru, has sat as an independent for longer than any other MP, having lost the party whip in July 2020, after he was arrested the previous month for assaulting his wife.