McDonnell tells senior Tories to ‘come clean’ and quit over voting row

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Two senior Conservative MPs should “come clean” and lose their positions over controversial Commons voting tactics, according to John McDonnell.

The shadow chancellor also insisted “complete reform” is required to ensure MPs on baby leave, or who are ill, do not lose their vote.

His remarks came as the row continued over Government Chief Whip Julian Smith’s decision to order Tory Party chairman Brandon Lewis to break a pairing agreement with a Liberal Democrat MP on maternity leave during a crucial Brexit vote.

Mr Lewis had been “paired” with Jo Swinson, meaning neither would walk through the voting lobbies.

Education minister Sam Gyimah said he believed Mr Smith had made an “honest mistake” and said moves to introduce proxy voting are supported by the Chief Whip and Prime Minister Theresa May.

Asked if Mr Smith should leave his position, Mr McDonnell told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Yes, I think so. I don’t say that lightly, I think so, yeah.

“Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions said ‘Oh, this was done in error’ – we now know there were instructions given about breaking the whip to people.

“I don’t think that’s acceptable. In Parliament you have to have certain democratic standards and once you start breaking the rules in that way, the operation of the institution itself comes into doubt.

“We need reform as well. We need complete reform.”

Asked if Mr Lewis should resign, Mr McDonnell said: “I think he should go, but I think both of them now need to come clean.”

Mr Gyimah told the same programme: “If (Mr Smith) says it’s an honest mistake, I’m willing to take his word for it.”

He backed plans for proxy voting in the Commons, adding: “I know the Prime Minister and Chief Whip are supportive of it.

“There are proposals that will be brought forward in September to help facilitate proxy voting and I hope that would help deal with some of the issues seen this week.”

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