Tobias Ellwood QUITS as Defence Committee chair after revolt by MPs who branded him a ‘f***ing idiot’ over ‘Taliban propaganda’ video
- Tory visited Kabul in the summer and praised ‘vastly improved’ security situation
Former minister Tobias Ellwood quit as Commons defence committee chairman tonight after sparking fury with a ‘Taliban propaganda video’.
The Tory MP conceded he no longer had the support of all members of the influential committee following the row.
In a statement confirming his resignation, Mr Ellwood accepted his ‘poor communications’ during the summer – when he praised the ‘vastly improved’ security situation in Afghanistan – had ‘reflected poorly’ on his fellow committee members.
‘Whilst I do believe I retained support of the majority of the committee, its dynamic and effectiveness would simply not be the same, and prove a distraction, if all in the room were not supportive of the Chair,’ he added.
An insider told MailOnline the Tory MP was stepping down after failing to convince colleagues he should keep the prestigious role at a meeting this afternoon.
Opponents had been planning to stage a vote as early as tomorrow when a ten-day notice period for tabling a no-confidence motion in Mr Ellwood was due to end.
A source on the committee told MailOnline that Mr Ellwood initially tried to make his case for staying at the meeting.
But they said he ‘waffled’ when asked to make a full apology.
‘He is so lacking in self-awareness,’ the MP said. ‘He decided to jump before he was pushed in the end. It was clear which way was it was going.’
Labour MP John Spellar is to become the acting chair of the Committee ahead of a vote for a permanent replacement for Mr Ellwood, which is due to be held at the end of next month.
Four members of the committee had called a formal vote on sacking the ex-minister despite him apologising and deleting extraordinary footage of a trip to Afghanistan this summer.
In the social media video, Mr Ellwood praised the ‘vastly improved’ security situation and urged the restoration of diplomatic ties.
Mr Ellwood admitted he ‘got it wrong’ and his positive messages about the new regime, which has stripped women of rights and been accused of persecuting opponents, could have been ‘better worded’.
But members branded him a ‘f*****g idiot’ and said he could not continue as chairman – a post which brings a £17,000 a year salary bump on top of his £86,500 MP pay.
The no-confidence motion was tabled on July 19 by Tories Mark Francois and Richard Drax, along with Labour’s Kevan Jones and Derek Twigg.
It is believed to be the first time the mechanism has been used since elections for chairs were introduced in 2010.
In his statement tonight, Mr Ellwood said: ‘It is with deep regret that I have tendered my resignation as Chair of the Defence Committee.
‘It has been a huge privilege to lead the scrutiny of the Government’s defence and security policy in Parliament these last three years.’
He added: ‘I believe I have a strong voice when it comes to defence and security. I stand up, speak my mind, try to see the bigger picture and offer solutions, especially on the international stage, as our world turns a dangerous corner.
‘I don’t always get it right – so it’s right I put my hand up when I don’t.
‘Poor communications, during the summer, in calling for greater international engagement in Afghanistan was understandably criticised at the time and reflected poorly on the Committee.’
Under Commons procedural rules, ten days has to expire between a no-confidence motion being tabled and it being endorsed by members – either unanimously or through a vote.
If the motion had been passed by the committee the Speaker would have declared the chair vacant. MPs then would have elected a replacement, with that ballot having to happen at least 10 sitting days later.
In his apology over the social media video, issued earlier this summer, Mr Ellwood had said: ‘However well intentioned, reflections of my personal visit could have been better worded.
‘I am sorry for my poor communication. I stand up, speak my mind, try to see the bigger picture and offer solutions, especially on the international stage, as our world turns a dangerous corner.
‘I don’t always get it right.’
Mr Ellwood said losing his brother in the 2002 Bali bombing drew him to visit Afghanistan ‘many times over the last decade’.
‘During my visit last week, I witness something I did not expect to see – an eerie calm and a visible change in security, corruption and opium growth which I felt obliged to report,’ he said.
‘But I also saw a very vulnerable economy that will soon collapse without international intervention, turning this country into a failed state with terrorist camps no doubt returning and triggering mass migration.
‘I also saw the increasing restrictions on women and girls. This suggests our current strategy of shouting from afar, after abruptly abandoning the country in 2021, is not working.
‘My simple call to action was to see our embassy reopen again and pursue a more direct strategy to help the 40million people that we abandoned.’