Karen Bradley misses the memo on 'disgusting behaviour' by Tory chief whip
The Northern Ireland secretary initially tried to laugh off the latest Tory scandal.
“I regret to inform that despite repeatedly asking Julian Smith direct questions this afternoon, he has been unable to confirm to me that he did not give instructions to break pairs,” stated Tory MP Heidi Allen on Thursday afternoon. “Therefore I can only conclude MPs were told to break pairs on Tuesday.”
Reporting on the scandal a few hours later, Newsnight's Nick Watt said that Tory MPs were livid: "One minister said to me this was disgraceful behaviour, it was disgusting behaviour."
And a former Conservative cabinet minister has called on Smith and Tory chairman Brandon Lewis to resign for breaking parliamentary convention during crunch Brexit votes. The anonymous top Tory told the Times: “Their behaviour is an affront to the very rules of conduct we have in our parliamentary democracy. They have both lied and have abused their positions in government to save their government jobs. They have brought into question the integrity of parliament and this government through such appalling conduct. They should resign.”
But cabinet minister Karen Bradley took a rather different approach to many of her colleagues when she was quizzed about the scandal on the Today programme - by merrily laughing it off.
The loyal May-ite told host John Humphreys: “Well John I know everybody is fascinated by the working of whips’ offices. Everyone has seen House of Cards…”
To which he hit back: “Well they are now. They didn’t used to be!”
And it didn’t get any better when Bradley dropped the jocular tone and started to sound serious. She said: “I was a whip. I can tell you that when you have a number of difficult votes… mistakes happen. It was an honest mistake. The chief whip has apologised. He was clear that it was honest.”
Clearly the Northern Ireland secretary has been too busy to speak to Allen and others. Or to watch Newsnight. Or to catch the clip of the Tory chairman having a conversation with a whip Andrew Stephenson just before he voted…