A Tory MP has announced that he will quit as the party’s vice-chairman, with insiders claiming he had become “hacked off” with publicly defending the Government over the sleaze scandal.
Andrew Bowie said he had decided to “take a step back from the demands of the role” and focus on his constituency of West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, where he holds a majority of just 843 votes.
However, party insiders told The Telegraph he was extremely unhappy at having to defend “last week’s events” to the media and had become “pretty hacked off”.
They said he would have resigned when the furore had died down if his decision had been unrelated to the sleaze scandal, rather than doing it now and risking adding fuel to the fire, but alleged that he had “lost his nerve” by not explicitly stating that he was quitting in protest at the Paterson affair after being leaned on by party whips.
A friend of the MP was quoted by the Reaction website as saying: “He doesn’t want to make a fuss, but he’s unable to support the Government after the events of recent days.”
His announcement came after Boris Johnson’s attempt to rip up the parliamentary standards system and block the suspension of Mr Paterson backfired spectacularly.
Conservative MPs were left fuming at the Prime Minister when he about-turned on plans to change disciplinary rules for parliamentarians, despite whipping them to support the proposals less than 24 hours earlier.
Mr Bowie was among those who voted for the controversial plans, which have also led to increased scrutiny of MPs’ second jobs. His register of interests at Westminster noted that the vice-chairmanship “carries a part-time salary”.
He enjoyed a majority of almost 8,000 when he was first elected in 2017, but this was cut to 843 two years later following a surge in support for the SNP.
He became the Conservative vice-chairman for youth and the UK union in August 2019, a few months after Mr Johnson became Prime Minister. He remained a party loyalist when Mr Johnson succeeded Mrs May and was tipped for ministerial office.
However, he was controversially passed over for the role of junior Scotland Office minister in the recent reshuffle, with the Prime Minister instead choosing an unelected Tory donor who was given a peerage.
In a statement, Mr Bowie said: “I was honoured to serve as vice-chair of the Conservative and Unionist Party. However, over the last few months I have come to the decision that I need to take a step back from the demands of the role to focus on representing my constituents in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine.
“I formally asked the party if I could step back from my position, and I will remain in post until they have found a successor.”
Conservative sources indicated that the position would be held open for Mr Bowie should he wish to return.