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Westminster’s Unwanted: All the UK MPs suspended by their parties since 2019

Westminster’s Unwanted: All the UK MPs suspended by their parties since 2019

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LONDON — Meet Britain’s fastest-growing political group: the suspended MPs.

Booted out of their political tribes — at least temporarily — over a variety of headline-grabbing controversies, these British lawmakers are now sitting in the House of Commons as independent MPs.

Incredibly, the nomadic bloc now totals 15 members of parliament — and actually outnumbers Britain’s fourth-largest party, the Liberal Democrats, who have 14. Only the Tories, Labour and SNP constitute larger groups in Westminster.

Britain has had independent MPs before, of course — some who chose to run as independents; others who, as during the 2019 Brexit battles, were either forced out or chose to quit their parties over policy differences.

But to have so many MPs suspended over allegations of misconduct is a new phenomenon.

“I certainly can’t recall a parliament when there are so many MPs at Westminster who’ve been chucked out of their parties, whether temporarily or permanently,” Queen Mary University professor of politics Tim Bale said. He argued that it shows “the public and the media have lost any lingering sense of deference” they once had toward politicians.

“It does not help engender public trust in parliament, or even in politicians more generally,” agreed Alice Lilly, a senior researcher at the Institute for Government think tank. “But it speaks to the fact that over the last few years, there’s been a lot more attention paid to the culture and behaviour in parliament.”

Suspended MPs exist in a kind of limbo, Lilly noted. “It’s a weird situation for them — because they will almost still be acting like they are MPs of their previous party — but they don’t have access to the same kinds of resources that they might otherwise have had.”

The allegations against these MPs are unrelated and cover a wide range of issues. Some of them protest their innocence and may yet be exonerated.

But it’s hard to imagine a more obvious symbol of the outcry over standards in public life in Britain than the sheer size of Westminster’s bloc of (newly) independent MPs.

In the spirit of paying attention, here’s a reminder of all the MPs who, at the time of writing, are sitting as independents.

Geraint Davies was suspended pending an investigation in June | U.K. Parliament

Geraint Davies — accused of harassment

A long-serving Labour MP, Davies was suspended pending an investigation in June after POLITICO reported on multiple accusations of inappropriate behavior toward junior female colleagues.

Five women said that Davies, a former House of Commons select committee chair who was first elected in 1997, subjected them to unwanted sexual attention, both physical and verbal, after coming into contact with them through his work as an MP. More women have since lodged formal complaints.

Davies, 63, said that he did not “recognize” the allegations, adding: “If I have inadvertently caused offence to anyone, then I am naturally sorry.”

Diane Abbott — ‘offensive’ letter

The veteran left-wing MP currently sits as an independent, following her suspension from Labour in April over a letter she sent to the Observer newspaper.

In the letter, Abbott wrote that while Jewish, Irish and traveller people can experience prejudice, they “are not all their lives subject to racism.” She subsequently apologized, withdrew the remarks and blamed them on an “initial draft being sent.”

But Labour said her letter was “deeply offensive and wrong” and withdrew the whip from Abbott, pending an investigation.

Scott Benton — fake gambling sting

A young Conservative MP with socially conservative views, Benton was part of the 2019 wave that swept Boris Johnson to power.

But he found himself under intense scrutiny after getting caught up in a fake gambling sting. As outlined in an investigation by the Times, Benton offered to “call in favors” from parliamentary colleagues on behalf of fake gambling industry investors who offered him a paid gig.

He was subsequently stripped of the right to sit as a Conservative MP by the party’s busy Chief Whip Simon Hart “whilst an investigation is ongoing.”

In September 2022, Nick Brown was suspended from the party and lost the whip | Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images

Nick Brown — unknown complaint

Brown has been one of Labour’s great survivors, serving as chief whip in the last Labour government and then under its next three leaders, until Keir Starmer shuffled his shadow cabinet pack in 2021.

But in September 2022, Brown was suspended from the party and lost the whip pending an investigation into a complaint. The nature of the complaint has not been disclosed.

Jeremy Corbyn — antisemitism row

Speaking of Labour’s warring factions, former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s current suspension from the party’s whip is a matter of deep consternation for the party’s left wing.

Corbyn was kicked out of the party — “pending investigation” — in 2020, hours after the publication of a damning report by the U.K.’s equalities and human rights watchdog into antisemitism in the party. In his response to the report, Corbyn acknowledged the existence of antisemitism in Labour but said its “scale” had been “dramatically overstated” for political purposes.

His successor Keir Starmer — who has tried to define himself against Corbyn — said that anyone who claimed the accusations were exaggerated was part of the problem.

The suspension of Corbyn’s Labour membership was lifted a month later but Starmer and the party’s top brass declined to restore the whip, meaning Corbyn cannot sit as a Labour MP.

Jonathan Edwards — domestic violence

Elected as an MP for the Welsh-independence supporting Plaid Cymru in 2010, Edwards had the whip withdrawn in May 2020 when he was arrested on suspicion of assault.

He later accepted a police caution for domestic violence and was formally suspended from the party pending an investigation.

He was readmitted to the party in July 2022 — a decision that caused fury in Plaid, which has struggled with accusations of improper behavior in recent years. However, Edwards announced that he would not re-take his party’s whip and would remain an independent MP.

Margaret Ferrier — COVID rulebreaker

At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic’s second wave in the U.K., Scottish National Party MP Margaret Ferrier traveled by train from Scotland to London while awaiting a COVID test result, and then back to Scotland the next morning after testing positive.

Ferrier, an MP since 2019, admitted the breach a few days later, was swiftly suspended from the SNP and lost the party whip.

The pro-independence independent has since been sentenced to 270 hours of community service for the breach, while the Commons this week voted to suspend her for 30 days from parliament — a punishment so severe it could trigger a by-election in her constituency.

Matt Hancock’s decision to take part in reality show “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here” came at the price of his place in the Conservative Party | Hollie Adams/Getty Images

Matt Hancock — camel penis

No stranger to a scandal — why always Matt, you may ask — Hancock kept the right to sit as a Tory MP when he resigned from Boris Johnson’s government after breaking coronavirus rules in a tryst with an aide.

But his luck ran out last fall. His decision to jet off to the Australian jungle to take part in reality show “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here” came at the price of his place in the Conservative Party — he lost the whip before he’d even landed in Australia.

Let’s hope the camel penis was worth it, Matt.

Christina Rees — bullying complaint

Formerly in charge of the Labour Party’s Wales brief in the House of Commons under Corbyn, Rees found herself whipless late last year.

Originally revealed by the Guardian newspaper and then confirmed by Labour, the MP was suspended pending an investigation into allegations of bullying.

In a statement at the time, Rees said: “I’m not aware of the details of the complaint but I am fully cooperating with the investigation.”

Julian Knight had the Conservative whip withdrawn in December last year | U.K. Parliament

Julian Knight — police inquiry

Senior MP Julian Knight had the Conservative whip withdrawn in December last year, pending investigation, after an allegation of sexual assault was made to the Metropolitan Police. Knight said he was “entirely innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever.”

The Met said in April they were no longer investigating, but new complaints made to the Conservative Party meant Knight did not regain the whip.

Knight continues to sit as an independent, and will stand down at the next election. In May, Essex Police said that they were now looking into an allegation of serious sexual assault, referred to them by the Met Police.

Knight has denied what he described as a “false and malicious accusation.”

Conor McGinn — unknown complaint

Then-Labour frontbencher Conor McGinn was suspended from the party and lost the whip pending an investigation of an unspecified complaint.

McGinn said at the time he had not been told of the details of the allegation but is “confident that it is entirely unfounded.”

He has since announced that he plans to step down at the next election.

Rob Roberts — sexting scandal

Initially, the Conservatives’ head office opted not to suspend Roberts — who, after becoming an MP, sent lewd texts to a 21-year-old intern inviting her to “fool around.”

Parliament’s Independent Expert Panel stepped in, recommending in May 2021 a six-week suspension from the House of Commons for Roberts. He was subsequently stripped of the whip and had his Conservative membership suspended.

Though he was readmitted to the party membership in October that year, Roberts remains an independent MP.

David Warburton, a Tory MP since 2015, also had the whip withdrawn | U.K. Parliament

David Warburton — Sunday Times exposé

Warburton, a Tory MP since 2015, had the whip withdrawn following allegations in the Sunday Times he harassed three women. The newspaper also obtained pictures of Warburton apparently posing next to cocaine.

The allegations remain under investigation by parliament’s independent complaints system, while Warburton continues to sit as an independent MP.

Claudia Webbe — convicted in court

The Labour whip was removed from Webbe in September 2020, when she was charged with harassing a woman who was having an affair with her partner.

A year later, the Leicester MP was formally expelled from the party when the courts opted to convict her. She was ordered to carry out 80 hours of community service.

Christopher Pincher — groping scandal

The scandal that engulfed Pincher, then Boris Johnson’s deputy chief whip, effectively brought down the then-prime minister last summer.

Pincher was suspended from the Conservatives and lost his government role following allegations in the Sun newspaper that he had groped two men at a private members’ club. In his resignation letter to the PM, he admitted he “embarrassed myself and other people.”

The incident triggered fresh questions over Johnson’s own judgement in appointing Pincher to the role, and, just days after the MP was suspended, Johnson himself was forced to quit.

Pincher remains an independent MP. He will stand down at the next election.

Owen Paterson found himself engulfed in a parliamentary lobbying scandal which resulted in him stepping down | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

And there’s more …

Not every MP has stuck around after losing the whip over allegations of misbehavior.

The first by-election since 2019’s general election occurred in 2021, after the former Labour MP Mike Hill stood down over allegations of sexual harassment against a parliamentary worker. A tribunal eventually upheld a complaint against Hill.

That same year, the veteran Tory MP Owen Paterson found himself engulfed in a parliamentary lobbying scandal — which eventually resulted in him stepping down.

The former Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan resigned as an MP in April 2022, following his conviction over the sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy. He had been stripped of the whip amid the investigation a year earlier.

Barely a month later, the senior Tory MP Neil Parish said he would quit parliament after admitting he twice watched pornography in the House of Commons. He’s mulling a comeback, apparently.

The former Labour frontbencher Chris Matheson was swiftly stripped of his Labour membership and the whip following an Independent Expert Panel recommendation that he be suspended over allegations of “serious sexual misconduct” toward a junior member of staff. He denied any misconduct, but opted to resign as an MP citing health and family reasons.

And still representing his party …

A Conservative MP was arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault offenses last year. After he was granted bail, the individual — who, in line with standard practice in the English legal system, has not been named by police — was asked to stay away from parliament amid an ongoing investigation. He retains the Tory whip.

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