Theresa May accused by Chris Bryant of buying Tory MPs’ support

Theresa May with new vice-chairmanImage copyright

Image caption

New vice-chairmen pose with the PM, chairman Brandon Lewis and deputy James Cleverly

Theresa May has been accused of “buying the loyalty” of Tory MPs by paying nine of them about £10,000 a year extra to be party vice-chairmen.

Labour’s Chris Bryant claims the cash, which comes from Conservative Party funds, amounts to “hush money”.

The jobs were handed out to the MPs, including some who had lost ministerial posts, in Mrs May’s reshuffle.

According to The Times, they are being paid varying amounts depending on their past experience.

A Conservative spokesman said: “Our new team of vice chairs bring a diverse range of experience to the party.

“The party has decided to offer some remuneration for these positions, reflecting both the importance of these roles and the commitment expected of them.”

The new vice-chairmen were appointed by Mrs May as part of a shake-up of Conservative central office aimed at attracting more young people and ethnic minority voters to join the party.

Brandon Lewis was installed as the new party chairman, with James Cleverly as his deputy.

The vice-chairmen include junior ministers, such as Chris Skidmore and Marcus Jones, who were sacked in the prime minister’s reshuffle and will, therefore, have lost their ministerial salary of £22,000 a year, which comes on top of their £74,962 MPs’ pay.

The new vice-chairmen come in addition to the party’s existing four vice-chairmen and others given what Chris Bryant described as “semi-government” jobs, such as the 15 MPs acting as trade envoys.

“It has never been done before as far as I am aware,” said Mr Bryant, a former Labour minister, of the new vice-chairmen.

“It is basically a means of keeping them on board and extending the prime minister’s patronage.”

“It means they can be sacked,” he added, if they voted against the government or showed disloyalty.

The size of the so-called “payroll vote” – backbench MPs whose independence is supposedly compromised by being given paid or unpaid roles in government – has been a source of controversy under successive governments.

The Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975 says the maximum number of paid ministerial posts should be 109, with the size of the cabinet limited to 21 ministers.

Prime ministers can also appoint MPs to unpaid roles, such as Parliamentary Private Secretaries, or invite ministers to attend cabinet without being full members – there are six ministers in this category in Mrs May’s new line-up.

The BBC estimates that there 105 Tory MPs – out of a total of 316 – on the “payroll vote,” following Mrs May’s reshuffle, but that is before the new list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries has been released, which could take the total to 150 MPs, nearly half of the Parliamentary party.

Theresa May accused by Chris Bryant of buying Tory MPs’ support}

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