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Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch pledges to vote against government in 'confidence' fracking vote

Two Kent MPs joined a breakaway Tory group that rebelled against Liz Truss in a vital vote, while another was reportedly caught up in "chaotic scenes" in the house.

Tracey Crouch and Greg Clarke reportedly abstained from tonight's fracking vote, while Kelly Tolhurst was allgedly involved in a confrontation while voting was taking place.

Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford
Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford

The scenes erupted in the House of Commons as the Government appeared to U-turn on a threat to strip the whip from Conservative MPs if they backed a fracking ban after a series of Tory MPs signalled they would not take part in the vote.

Allegations of bullying were also levelled against Government whips, with Labour former minister Chris Bryant saying some MPs had been “physically manhandled into another lobby and being bullied”.

Conservative deputy chief whip Craig Whittaker had issued a “100% hard” three-line whip, meaning any Tory MP that rebelled could be thrown out of the parliamentary party, but climate minister Graham Stuart caused confusion by telling the Commons minutes before the vote that “quite clearly this is not a confidence vote”.

According to unverified reports, Chief Whip Wendy Morton and Mr Whittaker have quit amid the chaos.

Jacob Reese Mogg admitting to Sky News that he was "not entirely clear" on what Ms Morton's position was.

Liz Truss is under fire as PM. Picture: Rob Pinney/PA
Liz Truss is under fire as PM. Picture: Rob Pinney/PA

Political reporters have also cited eyewitnesses as saying Tory MP Alex Stafford, who would soon allegedly be 'manhandled' through a particular voting door, shouted at Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst.

Kevin Schofield, political editor at Huffpost UK, said Mr Stafford told Ms Tolhurst the government were losing him and "so many other seats" and couldn’t get their story right about whether the fracking vote was a confidence motion or not.

The drama comes amid reports that there were physical confrontation's among Tory MPs in the house, with some Labour members reporting that they saw MPs being physically mandhandled through the doors.

Ms Crouch announced her decision on twitter by retweeting a message from former Energy Minister Chris Skidmore speaking out against the upcoming vote to allow fracking in Britain.

Mr Skidmore, who was one of the key figures behind the government's 2019 pledge to reach Net Zero, said: "For the sake of our environment and climate, I cannot personally vote tonight to support fracking and undermine the pledges I made at the 2019 General Election.

Natalie Elphicke fell short of saying she would oppose the government
Natalie Elphicke fell short of saying she would oppose the government

"I am prepared to face the consequences of my decision."

Ms Crouch simply retweeted with the comment "ditto", and following the vote numerous sources reported that neither she nor Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clarke voted with the government, instead choosing to abstain.

This comes hours after Suella Braverman criticised Liz Truss’s “tumultuous” premiership as she quit as home secretary, further imperilling the embattled Prime Minister’s grip on power.

The popular figure among the Tory right said she had made a “technical infringement” of the rules by sending an official document from a personal email and was now taking responsibility.

“I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign,” she wrote in a barely coded dig at the Prime Minister whose disastrous mini-budget sparked financial turmoil.

Analysis by political editor Paul Francis

There was a point earlier today when you could say that Liz Truss had weathered the political storm of a boisterous PMQs.

She did the only thing she could and came out fighting: if it wasn't exactly her finest hour at least she did not simply roll over and give up.

How things changed. A few hours later came the news that the Home Secretary Suella Braverman had resigned and had done so with an excoriating letter to the Prime Minister, saying she was worried about the direction of travel the government was heading in.

Could things get any worse? Yes they certainly could.

A vote on fracking triggered a minor rebellion with Conservative MPs ignoring a three-line whip - among them Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark and Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch both abstaining.

There were reports of scuffling as MPs lined up to vote, not exactly the most edifying spectacle for what is supposed to be model of democracy.

It used to be said that a week is a long time in politics. Now it is just a few hours.

Where will it all end? Who knows but one thing is certain: it is going to be a bumpy ride for the Prime Minister and the government.

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