PORTSMOUTH North MP Penny Mordaunt has poured cold water on reports she was reduced to tears by a government whip during a crucial Commons vote.
It was widely reported deputy chief whip Tory MP John Randall launched a ferocious verbal attack on Miss Mordaunt for not supporting the party’s House of Lord reform bill.
He was also said to have grabbed her by the arm to further berate her for not toeing the party line.
But Miss Mordaunt, who was away on a Royal Navy reservist course at HMS Raleigh when the story broke at the weekend, has categorically denied the accusation, saying she felt she had to restore her colleague’s reputation.
She said: ‘Normally I don’t comment on Westminster tittle-tattle, I’ve got better things to do with my time. But this particular story concerns John Randall, an MP and colleague who was very badly abused by certain papers and I felt I had to restore his reputation.
‘I’ve had a huge number of emails which have been supportive of my decision to vote against the government last week.
‘They like MPs to stick to their principles.
‘I had a lot of emails and tweets when they thought I had been manhandled by whips and I really thank them for their support.
‘But I’m happy to report that although the whips were very keen that we voted for the government they did not resort to the sorts of tactics that have been laid at John’s door.
‘I spoke to him on the evening but those reports were entirely false.’
A crucial vote of House of Lords reforms is in limbo after 91 Tory MPs defied whips and staged a rebellion against the plans last week.