Senior MP Tobias Ellwood has called for an end to “blue on blue” hostilities after being stripped of the Conservative whip yesterday.
The move was a punishment after Mr Ellwood failed to take part in Monday’s confidence vote in the government.
Mr Ellwood, chairman of the influential defence select committee, argued he was unable to return from a meeting with the president of Moldova due to “unprecedented disruption”.
Having the whip removed means Mr Ellwood, a long-term critic of Boris Johnson, is now not able to vote in the party’s leadership ballot.
He had voted for trade minister Penny Mordaunt in previous rounds.
On the conflict within the Tory party, Mr Ellwood told Sky News: “The nation wants to be impressed and inspired and not demoralised”.
He added: “We need to perhaps exhibit greater decorum, dial the temperature down a bit, showcase the ideas, the vision, focus on those things are important that the nation wants to see.”
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He warned that without an end to Conservative infighting “we’re just going to let ourselves down and indeed, commit ourselves to probably a long while in opposition”.
Mr Ellwood also disputed the claim that he did not acknowledge the whips call for him to return, telling Kay Burley: “I didn’t ignore it at all, I kept the whips’ office informed the entire time.”
He added that runways which had melted in the UK due to the heatwave and security issues in Moldova both impacted his journey back.
Mr Ellwood said he deeply regretted losing the whip and hoped it would only be temporary.
“I am very sorry I didn’t make it back,” he added.
Mr Ellwood told Sky News that he did not want to speculate about the reasons why he specifically lost the whip and whether or not he would have lost it if he had been a Liz Truss backer, rather than supporting Ms Mordaunt.
“I’d be then fuelling the blue-on-blue [attacks], which I’m actually trying to avoid,” he said.
“Let’s focus on how we can move forward and make sure that we conclude this leadership campaign to the highest professional standard that I think the British people want to see.”
But speaking to Sky News earlier, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke defended the decision to strip the Tory Party whip from Mr Ellwood, saying the senior MP had made a “very serious mistake”.
“He was in Moldova, rather than Ukraine. He was not on government work, he is a backbench MP,” Mr Clarke said.
He also suggested that Mr Ellwood knew the consequences of missing the vote.
“Look, I’m not a member of whip’s office. What I will say is that there are clear arrangements in place which all MPs understand, which govern the conditions for absence from votes, most especially critical votes like a motion of confidence in the government, which has the potential to trigger a general election,” Mr Clarke said.
Mr Ellwood was not the only Conservative MP to miss Monday’s confidence vote, but a Conservative source said on Tuesday that all other Tory MPs who were absent for reasons such as family illness were paired appropriately as agreed by the whips – meaning another individual voted on their behalf.
“Other Conservative MPs cancelled foreign trips, left poorly relatives and one MP’s mother died on the morning of the vote and still attended and voted,” the Tory source said.
Losing the whip effectively means that an MP is expelled from their party because they have not followed strict instruction from the leadership.
They do not lose their seat and will remain as an MP.
But, until the whip is restored, they will sit as an independent in the commons.
Ms Mordaunt is seen as the greatest challenger to Ms Truss, who is being backed by Mr Johnson’s allies to make it into the final two vying for Number 10.
Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain questioned why Mr Johnson removed the whip from Mr Ellwood so rapidly but “dragged his feet for days when it came to suspending the whip from his loyal supporter Chris Pincher” – who was eventually suspended over sexual assault claims.
“The Conservative leadership candidates should condemn this move and make clear they will restore the whip to Tobias Ellwood,” she said.
MPs voted 349 to 238, majority 111, to support the motion stating that the Commons has confidence in the government on Monday evening.
The victory means that Mr Johnson is expected to continue in Downing Street until September, when Tory members choose the winner from the final two selected by Tory MPs.
Mr Ellwood was first elected in 2005 as Conservative MP for Bournemouth East.