Boris Johnson has taken revenge against a Tory MP who defeated his pick to be the new Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) chair – by removing the whip.
Dr Julian Lewis is no longer sitting as a Conservative in parliament after he ran against the government’s nominee for the top job, Chris Grayling, and won.
A senior government source said the punishment was for “working with Labour and other opposition MPs for his own advantage”.
Opposition politicians called it “psychopath politics” and branded those behind the decision a “grubby shower”.
Mr Grayling had been expected to become the ISC chair – putting him in charge of scrutinising the UK’s intelligence agencies MI5, MI6, and GCHQ – in a vote by other committee members on Wednesday.
Packed with a Tory majority for the first time in recent history, Number 10 was counting on other members to back their candidate.
But at the last moment, Dr Lewis nominated himself – and with the contest split – he won with the remaining votes from Labour and the Scottish National Party, 5-4.
The role is a highly controversial one as the ISC’s first job will be to publish the Russia report into alleged election interference, which critics have accused the government of sitting on for nine months.
Former chair Dominic Grieve said the report had been sent to Downing Street on 17 October and was ready for publication once it had been signed off, a process that usually takes up to 10 days.
But it was not released by the prime minister before December’s general election, at which point the former members of the committee relinquished their roles.
It has since taken almost seven months for the Conservatives to nominate their new committee members and so allow for the report to be published.
David Gauke, one of over a dozen politicians who had the whip removed last autumn for voting to avoid a no-deal Brexit, responded drily to Dr Lewis receiving the same fate, tweeting: “Well, this takes me back.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, also wrote: “What a grubby shower they are.”
Another Labour MP Jess Phillips added: “I see Number 10 are lashing out after forgetting the first rule of politics – learn to count.”
And the SNP’s Angus MacNeil commented: “We are in the world of psychopath politics… This is utterly jawdropping!”