Senior Tories are warning Downing St that his increasingly domineering attitude towards his own MPs will backfire after his ‘sinister’ decision to fire a former MP from the parliamentary party.
Concerns have been raised about the treatment of Julian Lewis, who sabotaged plans for No. 10 by being elected chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).
Since Lewis’ arrival in this role, the committee has agreed to publish a sensitive report on Russian interference in British politics which had been blocked by the government before the last election. The report is due out this week.
Russia has repeatedly denied any interference, and the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom will do so again at the Andrew Marr Show today, when he rejects claims that the Kremlin attempted to steal research from the Covid-19 vaccine.
Downing St had planned to install former minister Chris Grayling as the new ISC chairman, but was blinded by Lewis’s successful bid for the post, which he won with the backing of opposition MPs. However, the decision to strip Lewis of the whip caused a backlash in the Conservative ranks. Many MPs accuse Boris Johnson’s powerful inner circle of their intolerance to any form of dissent.
A number of concerns were raised with members of the 1922 Conservative backbench committee members. Several figures stated that the concerns were conveyed to Chief Whip Mark Spencer by committee chair Graham Brady, and many have urged Spencer to reconsider. “Reducing the majority is not a genius move, but it will backfire in the long run,” said a concerned conservative.
Dominic Grieve, the former president of the ISC, who was also expelled from the parliamentary party for his views on Brexit, said that Lewis’ treatment was likely to be part of a larger pattern of behavior from the n ° 10. the only rational explanation may be that the government wishes to politicize all aspects of government and parliamentary activity and to politicize it by the party, that nothing else is tolerable and that it wishes to exercise constant control and ongoing on a range of activities that should be carried out. by independent players, ”he said.
“And if they do that to this parliamentary committee, what will they choose to try and do it next?” I think there is a legitimate reason to be very concerned about what they are doing, even if it seems to me to be the scene of the absurd. “
MEPs also believe that the ministers tried to soften the impact of the imminent publication of the report on Russia by confirming that Russian actors “had sought to interfere” in the general elections last winter.
They pointed to an NHS file that had been leaked by the Labor party during the campaign. Dominic Raab, the foreign minister, said any attempt to interfere was “totally unacceptable”. However, one reviewer said of the sudden admission: “It is a standard media ploy, but many governments have used it. “
The dossier is also expected to include a review of political funding flowing from Russia to Britain and several Tory donors are said to be named in the report. However, the names will likely be redacted when the report is released. One of the donors supposed to be included in the dossier said he did not have a chance to see his findings until they were released.
Archives of the Election Commission suggest that the largest Russian conservative donor is Lubov Chernukhin. Her husband, Vladimir Chernukhin, was Vladimir Putin’s deputy finance minister from 2000 to 2002. She has donated hundreds of thousands to the Conservatives in the past year, paying previously to play tennis with Boris Johnson and dinner with Theresa May. Her donations are completely legal as she is a UK citizen.
The long-awaited report on Russia was written by the ISC under its previous membership. The report was sent to Downing St as early as mid-October, but its publication was blocked by the government. Critics say the delay put an end to questions about Russia’s ties to the Conservative party before the December elections.
It took almost seven months after the election of Downing St to appoint new members of the CSI. This was the longest hiatus for the commission since its creation in 1994. The absence of one of the most important committees in Parliament has raised concerns among the parties. He is responsible for overseeing the British intelligence community.