15 July 2020 20:32
Julian Lewis has Tory whip removed after beating Chris Grayling to top security job Dr Julian Lewis Julian Lewis has had the Conservative whip removed just hours after beating Number 10's pick to chair a powerful security watchdog. Mr Lewis, who was elected as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee in a surprise turn on Wednesday, has been booted out of the parliamentary Tory party after defeating Chris Grayling. A senior government source accused Mr Lewis of "working with Labour and other opposition MPs for his own advantage". Mr Grayling was Number 10's preferred choice to lead the ISC, which oversees the work of MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the other intelligence and security services. The long-awaited announcement of which MPs would sit on the committee was finally made more than six months after the general election.
Mr Grayling, along with Dr Lewis and fellow Conservatives Sir John Hayes, Mark Pritchard and Theresa Villiers, Labour's Dame Diana Johnson and Kevan Jones, and the SNP's Stewart Hosie, were approved by the Commons on Monday, while Lord West of Spithead's membership was signed off by peers on Tuesday. It had seemed to be a formality that Mr Grayling, who served in both David Cameron and Theresa May's Cabinets, would be selected as its chair. But a one-line press release from the watchdog on Wednesday evening said: "The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) today elected Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis MP as its Chairman." It is understood the four opposition members, plus the new chairman himself, voted for Dr Lewis, outnumbering the remaining four Tories in the ballot for the chair. 'MATTER FOR THE COMMITTEE' Downing Street had talked up Mr Grayling's "extensive range of experience" earlier this week after it was revealed he was nominated to sit on the ISC. But a spokesman for the Prime Minister would not be drawn on whether Boris Johnson had asked his fellow Tory nominees to back him for the top scrutiny job.
His fellow Tory MP Julian Lewis secured the role despite widespread expectation that Mr Grayling would receive the backing of the Conservative-dominated Intelligence and Security Committee. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was widely believed to want former transport secretary Mr Grayling to become the chairman of the body which oversees the work of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. Julian Lewis was elected as chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA) But the committee members voted instead for former defence select committee chairman Dr Lewis. With the Conservatives enjoying a majority – with five out of nine places on the committee – there had been concern at Westminster that the Tory members would be "whipped" to support Mr Grayling despite concerns about his expertise. Yes that puts the ISC into the hands of someone with much wider experience of defence and security. Let's hope he and the Committee will be willing to take the same independent-minded line as their predecessors! — Peter Ricketts (@LordRickettsP) July 15, 2020 Following Dr Lewis' success, Lord Ricketts said the body was now in the "hands of someone with much wider experience of defence and security". The committee has yet to publish its long-awaited report into Russian interference in UK politics after Mr Johnson refused to clear it for release before last year's general election. Advertising Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said Mr Johnson had appointed "yes men" to the ISC but "true to form, however, failing Grayling has been undone in his bid to be chair". "I hope we now have a committee with real teeth that can hold this Government to account," he added. "That starts by publishing the report into Russian interference of our democracy before the summer recess so MPs can scrutinise it fully." Blow to Number 10 as Chris Grayling misses out on becoming chair of intelligence committee Chris Grayling. Photograph: Isabel Infantes/PA. PA Archive/PA Images Former cabinet minister Chris Grayling has missed out on the chairmanship of parliament's intelligence watchdog, in a blow to Number 10's authority. Email this article to a friend To send a link to this page you must be logged in. Become a Supporter Almost four years after its creation The New European goes from strength to strength across print and online, offering a pro-European perspective on Brexit and reporting on the political response to the coronavirus outbreak, climate change and international politics. But we can only continue to grow with your support. Former minister Grayling had been widely expected to be elected chair of the Conservative-dominated Intelligence and Security Committee after winning Boris Johnson's support and urging Tory MPs to back him. The ex transport minister - who awarded a £13.8m ferry contract to a firm with no ships and a website with pasted information from a takeaway outlet - would have overseen the work of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. But instead fellow Tory MP Julian Lewis secured the role, leading to fresh hopes a long-awaited report into Russian interference in UK politics will be published. Former national security adviser Lord Ricketts had warned that Grayling - who earned the nickname "Failing Grayling" during a chequered ministerial career - does not "match up" to the authority and reputation of former chairs. Have your say Send your letters for publication to The New European by emailing [email protected] and pick up an edition each Thursday for more comment and analysis. Find your nearest stockist here or subscribe to a print or digital edition for just £13. You can also join our readers' Facebook group to keep the discussion and debate going with thousands of fellow pro-Europeans. Following Dr Lewis' success, Ricketts said the body was now in the "hands of someone with much wider experience of defence and security". As well as Grayling and Lewis, the members of the ISC are Tory MPs Theresa Villiers, Sir John Hayes and Mark Pritchard, Labour MPs Dame Diana Johnson and Kevan Jones, the Labour peer Admiral Lord West and the SNP MP Stewart Hosie. The committee has refused to release a breakdown of how its nine members - five Tories, three Labour and one SNP - voted, but the Express accused the new chair of launching a "bloodless coup" alongside the opposition. A committee source told the PA news agency: "This was a secret ballot but clearly for him (Grayling) to lose, some Tories decided not to vote for him." Johnson has faced criticism over the delay in appointing the committee which has not met since the last parliament was dissolved in November last year. Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: "With the ongoing pandemic, people are rightly worried. That is why it is more important than ever before that people can have faith in government. "Sadly, we have seen Boris Johnson drive a coach and horses through public trust by appointing yes-men to the intelligence committee. True to form, however, failing Grayling has been undone in his bid to be chair. "I hope we now have a committee with real teeth that can hold this government to account. That starts by publishing the report into Russian interference of our democracy before the summer recess so MPs can scrutinise it fully."