Who is Julian Lewis? The Tory MP who lost his Conservative whip

PA wire Julian Lewis, a previously scarcely-known backbencher, has been thrust into a headline-maker this week after a “coup” saw him installed as the new chair of one of Parliament’s most prestigious select committees. The New Forest East MP was named chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee on Tuesday. […]

PA wire
PA wire

Julian Lewis, a previously scarcely-known backbencher, has been thrust into a headline-maker this week after a “coup” saw him installed as the new chair of one of Parliament’s most prestigious select committees.

The New Forest East MP was named chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee on Tuesday.

But hours later a furious Boris Johnson ensured he was kicked out of the parliamentary Conservative Party for refusing to bow to their demand to vote for former cabinet minister Chris Grayling as the new chair.

So who is the man at the centre of all this Westminster drama? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Chris Grayling row all about?

Downing Street had expected to shoo-in the controversial Transport Minister Mr Grayling into ISC chair without any issue.

But instead Mr Lewis won over opposition committee members and got the position, condemning Downing Street’s “improper request” for him to vote for Mr Grayling.

Chris Grayling missed out on a Cabinet position despite being Boris Johnson's ally - but had been put forward for ISC chair (AFP/Getty Images)
Chris Grayling missed out on a Cabinet position despite being Boris Johnson’s ally – but had been put forward for ISC chair (AFP/Getty Images)

In a statement, he said that the 2013 Justice and Security Act explicitly removed the right of the prime minister to choose the ISC chairman and gave it to the committee members.

“It was only yesterday afternoon that I received a text asking me to confirm that I would be voting for the Prime Minister’s preferred candidate for the ISC chair,” he said.

He is among the Tory backbenchers who have led a sustained campaign to make the Government increase defence spending beyond the Nato target of at least 2% of GDP.

In 2016, he told the Commons: “We want three to keep us free.”

Mr Lewis, who grew up in Swansea, was awarded a doctorate in 1981 after reading philosophy and politics at Oxford before specialising in strategic studies, and has written two books on military and defence issues.

What has happened in Julian Lewis’ career?

Mr Lewis led a successful campaign in 2008 to prevent MPs’ home addresses being available to the public, saying the matter had “nothing to do with expenses and everything to do with security”.

He and former Commons speaker John Bercow previously worked together on a series of advanced speaking and campaigning courses for Conservative activists, according to Mr Lewis’s website.

Downing Street is furious over the saga (PA)
Downing Street is furious over the saga (PA)

A Brexiteer, he complained last year about the “incessant loud noise” from Brexit protesters outside Parliament, which he said was distracting MPs and the police.

In January, the MP spoke about his “unshakeable policy” not to use email for constituency correspondence.

In a letter published by the Guardian, he said letters, phone calls and surgery appointments were “perfectly adequate for people who genuinely need my help”.

He added: “Much of the organised abuse which has caused many MPs to ‘burn out’ and withdraw from public life results from their opening up themselves and their long-suffering staff to interactive online communications by email and social media.

“Indeed, several have confided that they wish they had adopted my unshakeable policy right at the outset.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling's nomination was heavily criticised (PA)
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s nomination was heavily criticised (PA)

What has the reaction been to the saga?

Mr Johnson’s choice of Mr Grayling to head the ISC – which oversees the work of the intelligence agencies MI5, MI6 and GCHQ – drew heavy criticism from across the political spectrum.

Former Tory Cabinet minister and chairman of the ISC, Dominic Grieve, told the BBC: “What troubles me about this episode, quite apart from its utter absurdity, and now withdrawing the whip from Julian, who is indeed highly respected, is the mindset it gives about what on earth is going on in Downing Street.”

Mr Lewis was described by former national security adviser Lord Ricketts as someone “with much wider experience of defence and security”.

The Government could seek to remove Mr Lewis from the ISC by tabling a motion to replace him in the Commons, which MPs would have to approve, but would struggle given his Tory allies.

Read more

Julian Lewis has Tory whip removed over committee nomination ‘coup’

Tory MP kicked out of Conservative parliamentary party hits back at PM

Former Tory minister tears into PM for removing whip from MP

Grieve: Removing Tory whip from Julian Lewis was ‘utter absurdity’

Chris Grayling denied job as head of powerful Intelligence committee

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