Liz Truss’s ill-fated tenure as British Prime Minister was engulfed in yet more chaos on Wednesday when her Home Secretary resigned seven weeks into her role, and as claims emerged of pandemonium and “bullying” during a vote the same day.
Allegations emerged on Wednesday of some ruling Conservative Party lawmakers being physically dragged to vote with the government against the ban on fracking for shale gas.
The disorderly scenes come amid growing pressure on the beleaguered leader to resign. Her time in Downing Street has been spectacularly derailed by a radical fiscal agenda, which Truss has been forced to abandon and apologize for.
Earlier on Wednesday, Suella Braverman said she resigned as Home Secretary over the use of a personal email address that breached ministerial rules.
Her resignation letter was also scathing of Truss’s leadership and indicated deep fissures in the heart of her government.
“The business of government relies upon people accepting responsibility for their mistakes. Pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can’t see that we have made them, and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics,” Braverman wrote in a thinly veiled critique of Truss’s numerous U-turns on taxes and public spending.
“I have concerns about the direction of this government,” Braverman said. “Not only have we broken key pledges that were promised to our voters, but I have serious concerns about this Government’s commitment to honoring manifesto commitments.”
Truss accepted Braverman’s resignation, saying “it is important that the ministerial code is upheld, and that cabinet confidentiality is respected,” she said in a letter.
Hours later, politicians shared accounts on Twitter of angry scenes of shouting and altercation in UK Parliament.
The government whips, who impose party discipline and tell the party how to vote, made the opposition Labour Party motion on banning fracking a vote of confidence in the government earlier today.
If Conservative lawmakers voted against the government they would “lose the whip” and effectively expelled from the party.
Opposition Labour Party lawmaker Anna McMorrin wrote on Twitter that she saw one Conservative lawmaker “in tears” being “manhandled into the lobby to vote against our motion to continue the ban on fracking.”
Another lawmaker, David Linden, called it “astonishing,” saying in a tweet that he “just watched the Deputy Prime Minister practically pick up a hesitant Tory MP and march him into the government lobby.”
Chris Bryant, a Labour former minister and the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standards Committee, called on the Commons Deputy Speaker to launch an investigation into the scenes “outside the entrance to the ‘no’ lobby earlier.”
He told Parliament that he saw lawmakers being “physically manhandled” and “bullied” into the voting lobby.
Labour lawmaker Ian Murray described it as “open warfare,” where whips were seen “screaming at Tories. They are done and should call a general election. Two Tory whips dragging people in. Shocking,” he said in a tweet.
When asked about these allegations on Sky News, Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg denied them.
“I think to characterize it as bullying is mistaken,” he said. “I did hear one person shout and use an expletive as he marched in. He said everyone should go and vote and he said that loudly. But he didn’t say it to anyone individually. He said it to the assembled crowd,” Rees-Mogg added.
Truss is meanwhile in serious danger of becoming Britain’s shortest-serving leader ever, with some of her own lawmakers calling for her to resign and opinion polling indicating an electoral wipe-out for her Conservative Party.
Fracking is unpopular among many Conservative constituencies, and in 2019, the party’s manifesto promised not to lift England’s ban unless it can be shown by science to “be done safely.” Truss u-turned on that pledge when she became Prime Minister.
‘Mount Everest to climb’
Grant Shapps was appointed as Braverman’s replacement in the Home Office, Downing Street tweeted Wednesday.
The lawmaker, who was transport secretary under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, recently questioned Truss’s longevity earlier this week during a podcast recording with comedian Matt Forde, saying that Truss had a “Mount Everest to climb” to remain in power, according to PA Media.
“What she needs to do is like threading the eye of a needle with the lights off,” Shapps said.
Braverman’s resignation comes five days after Truss fired her Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, over the mini-budget, which sparked a collapse in the value of the pound and forced the Bank of England to intervene to calm markets.
And it will result in yet more turnover at the heart of Britain’s government. Truss will soon appoint the UK’s third home secretary in eight weeks, to accompany its fourth finance minister in four months.
Several Conservative British lawmakers told CNN they had “reservations” that the reason for Braverman’s resignation was limited to what she outlined in her letter – sending a draft ministerial statement from her personal email – and queried that it was a resignation offense.
One lawmaker called the official version of events “nonsense,” another called it “very unusual, if true.”
Braverman competed in the Conservative Party leadership campaign during the summer, which was eventually won by Truss. A rising star of the party’s right wing, Braverman has repeatedly pledged to reduce illegal migration to Britain and has frequently stoked culture war topics.
On Tuesday during a debate on a public order bill in Parliament, she criticized “the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati” for leading climate protests that have blocked British roads in recent months.
On Wednesday, the new Home Secretary told reporters that he was ready to work on providing security to the British people despite “turbulent time” for the British government.
“I accept that government has obviously had a very difficult period,” Shapps said, adding that the new UK Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, had done “a great job of settling issues relating to that mini-budget.”
CNN’s Sugam Pokharel, Dan Wright, David Wilkinson and Xiaofei Xu contributed to this report.