By Rob Merrick
Southern Daily Echo Online – 14 May 2014
Conservative MP Julian Lewis was left disappointed yesterday when he missed out on a top Commons job – by a whisker. The New Forest East MP came up just 14 votes short in a hotly-contested battle to be the next chairman of the Defence Select Committee. Dr Lewis lost out to fellow Tory Rory Stewart, a former diplomat who wrote a book about his life as a senior official in charge of a province of occupied Iraq.
The former defence spokesman would have won if it had been a ‘first past the post’ election, having led on first preferences by 124 votes to 113. But the MPs were using the ‘alternative vote’ (AV) system, under which second preferences are transferred until one candidate has more than 50 per cent. [For full results, click here.]
Dr Lewis won through to the last round of voting, but was defeated by 226 votes to 212, in a result announced in the Commons chamber. He congratulated the winner and joked that he would, at least, be able to retain his seat on Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, which scrutinises the UK’s ‘spooks’.
Dr Lewis had won the backing of many Labour MPs, after opposing David Cameron’s ill-fated bid to arm the rebels in the Syrian civil war. Chairmen of select committees receive a £14,728 top-up to their MP's salary, in recognition of their extra duties.
* * *
'STEWART GETS DEFENCE SCRUTINY ROLE' [EXTRACT]
By Arj Singh and Tim Sculthorpe
Press Association – 14 May 2014
Tory MP Rory Stewart has been elected the new chair of the influential House of Commons Defence Select Committee, Speaker John Bercow has announced. Narrowly beating off competition from party colleague Julian Lewis with 226 votes to Mr Lewis's 212, Mr Stewart will start his new role heading up the cross-party committee of MPs scrutinising defence policy immediately.
Announcing Mr Stewart's victory in the Commons, Mr Bercow said:
"May I be the first on behalf of all colleagues in the House warmly to congratulate Mr Stewart and I'm sure I speak for all colleagues also in thanking all of the other candidates who took part in the election."
On a point of order, Mr Stewart thanked the other candidates. The MP for Penrith and the Border said:
"To say a huge thank you, it has been an enormous privilege to stand alongside colleagues who have approached this in such a collegial and kind fashion. I have so much to learn from them. I am a very young member, very inexperienced, and it is a very, very great honour.''
Mr Lewis, the New Forest East MP, had been considered the front runner. He said:
"I can only thank all those people who supported me, congratulate the winner, commiserate with the other MPs who stood, and say I am very sorry for whoever it was who was hoping to replace me on the Intelligence and Security Committee – they will have to wait a little longer."
... The contest was sparked by the decision of outgoing chairman James Arbuthnot to stand down ahead of his retirement as an MP at the next general election. Commons rules dictated only Conservative MPs would be eligible to stand for the position leading the 12-member committee.
Mr Stewart won on the seventh round of counting of the transferable vote contest. Second-placed contender Mr Lewis was ahead on four of the counts, including in the first round where all eight candidates were counted. On first preferences, Mr Lewis led Mr Stewart 124 to 113.
A total of 479 MPs took part in the ballot, with one spoiled paper recorded.
In the current Parliament, the Defence Select Committee has investigated a range of issues including why, when and how Britain should become involved in interventions, and the situation in Afghanistan. In March, the committee announced it would begin taking evidence in advance of the new Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015. Asked for the Prime Minister's reaction to the outcome of the election, David Cameron's official spokesman said:
"He congratulates Mr Stewart on his appointment."
* * *
'MP IN RUNNING FOR TOP WESTMINSTER JOB' [EXTRACT]
By Rob Merrick
Southern Daily Echo – 13 May 2014
A Hampshire MP is in the running for a top Westminster job, in a highly unusual 'by-election' taking place this week. Up for grabs is the chairmanship of the defence select committee, a crucial post responsible for scrutinising the multi-billion-pound spending of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Now Julian Lewis, the Conservative MP for New Forest East, is winning strong cross-party support in a contest to be settled in a vote on Wednesday.
But Dr Lewis downplayed suggestions that he was the favourite to grab the job, saying:
"I have a one-in-eight chance of being successful."
Up to eight Conservatives could throw their hats into the ring, after fellow Tory James Arbuthnot, who is leaving parliament next year, stood down. To be able to stand, candidates – who must be Conservative – must win the backing of at least five MPs from other parties. Dr Lewis is in a strong position after getting the nod from senior Labour MPs including former ministers Peter Hain and Hazel Blears. ... He said he believed his supporters saw him as a "conviction politician", even if they didn't necessarily share his political beliefs:
"It's an important job because many decisions about defence are controversial and, often, the Government doesn't choose the most sensible option."
Dr Lewis was a Shadow Defence Minister for seven years in the last decade and is currently a member of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee. He has used that background to urge David Cameron to press ahead with |renewing the Trident nuclear deterrent and opposed arming the rebels in the Syrian civil war.
No.10 is widely believed to oppose Dr Lewis, preferring a safe pair of hands to an outspoken MP who has clashed with the Prime Minister.
* * *
By Macer Hall
Daily Express – 10 May 2014
Tory MP Julian Lewis has signed up a surprising recruit in his drive to win next week's election for the prestigious chairmanship of the Commons Defence Committee. The backbencher, who has long been Westminster's most vociferous supporter of Britain's nuclear deterrent, has been nominated by Labour Left-winger John McDonnell, a long-standing supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.