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Tories expel Julian Lewis from parliamentary party after he becomes chair of intelligence committee

MP faces backlash after defeating favoured candidate Chris Grayling for key role

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Julian Lewis has been kicked out of the Conservative parliamentary party after the Jewish MP defeated Chris Grayling to become chair of the key Intelligence and Security Committee, which scrutinises the work of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

With Mr Grayling believed to be Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s preferred choice, MPs had backed Dr Lewis over concerns about impartiality

Lord Ricketts, a former national security adviser, said the body was now in the "hands of someone with much wider experience of defence and security".

But on Wednesday, the Tory leadership took disciplinary action against Dr Lewis with sources suggesting the MP had "acted with the opposition for his own advantage".

Mr Johnson had faced criticism over the delay in appointing the committee, which has not met since the last parliament was dissolved in November.

The committee has yet to publish its long-awaited report into Russian interference in UK politics after Mr Johnson refused to clear it for release before the general election.

Former Tory Cabinet minister and ex-chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Dominic Grieve, told the BBC's Newsnight: "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 mind-set it gives about what on earth is going on in Downing Street.

"The committee can only exist, the committee can only be respected... if it is seen to be non-partisan and independent."

Dr Lewis is the Swansea-born son of a tailor. In 2007 he resigned his life membership of the Oxford Union debating society in protest at the decision to invite Holocaust denier David Irving and then BNP leader Nick Griffin to speak at an event.

A military and defence expert, he has written on the dangers of Middle Eastern military intervention to help overthrow President Assad in Syria.

 

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