Penny Mordaunt supporter Tobias Ellwood has lost the Conservative party whip today for not showing up to support the government in yesterday’s confidence vote.
Ellwood, a perennial critic of Boris Johnson, will now be unable to participate in the final two MP votes for the Tory leadership contest.
The Defence Committee chair was in Moldova yesterday, however MPs were told by Number 10 to cancel any trips they had planned to attend the vote.
Johnson called a vote of no-confidence in his own government, after Labour’s motion was rejected by the Conservative whips office over technicalities with the motion’s wording.
Losing Ellwood’s vote could turn out to be a disaster for Mordaunt who is in a tight race to finish in the top two of the Tory leadership race.
The top two candidates will face-off in a six week campaign to win over the votes of the party’s 200,000 grasroots members.
Mordaunt was in second place in yesterday’s vote, with the support of 81 MPs, with Liz Truss trailing her by just 11.
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries hit out on Twitter at suggestions that Ellwood had the whip removed to help Liz Truss, who is thought to be Johnson’s choice for next PM, to get into the final two.
“This is wholly untrue and frankly utterly ridiculous,” Dorries said.
“Every single MP of every party is under no illusion regarding the price to be paid in not voting during a Gov confidence motion. It’s a very clearly defined and historic red line. Tobias could have voted like everyone else.”
Ellwood said he was unable to get back to the UK from Moldova due to “unprecedented disruption both here and in the UK”.
“I am very sorry to lose the whip, but will now continue my meetings in Ukraine promoting the Prime Minister’s efforts here and specifically seeking to secure the re-opening of Odessa port so vital grain exports can recommence,” he said.