Boris Johnson has restored the Tory whip to 10 of the 21 former Conservative rebels who were expelled after backing a bid to block a No Deal Brexit.
The Prime Minister met with the 10 MPs in his House of Commons office this evening as they were offered the chance to return to the Tory fold.
All 10 accepted the PM’s offer and will now be able to stand as Tory candidates at the forthcoming snap general election if they want to.
The 10 who have had the Tory whip restored are: Alistair Burt, Caroline Nokes, Greg Clark, Sir Nicholas Soames, Ed Vaizey, Margot James, Richard Benyon, Stephen Hammond, Steve Brine and Richard Harrington.
The remaining 11 rebels, including Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke, have not been welcomed back.
However, a Tory source said that this evening’s events do not mean that the remaining 11 will be permanently deprived of the whip as they suggested there could still be a way back for the PM’s critics.
Boris Johnson, pictured in the House of Commons today, met with 10 of the 21 former Tory rebels in his office this evening as they all had the whip restored
Greg Clark, the former business secretary, and Sir Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, were among the 10 rebels who had the whip restored
Alistair Burt, a former foreign office minister, has said he will stand down at the next election. Caroline Nokes, the former immigration minister, has also had the whip restored
Richard Benyon (left) intends to stand down at the next election. Stephen Hammond had floated the possibility of standing as an independent
Both Margot James and Steve Brine had the Tory whip restored this evening
Richard Harrington, the former business minister, said he will step down at the next election. Ed Vaizey, a former culture minister, intends to stand again
At least four of the rebels who have had the whip restored have said they will step down at the next election: Mr Burt, Sir Nicholas, Mr Harrington and Mr Benyon.
But for the others who want to continue their political career, this evening’s decision represent a welcome development and massively increases their hopes of re-election.
Some had signalled that they would fight as independent candidates but now they will be able to campaign under the official Conservative banner.
A Conservative spokesman said following this evening’s meeting: ‘They are Conservative members of Parliament with the Tory whip.
‘They have had the whip restored and they will be treated as Conservative members of Parliament.’
The spokesman said the decision to readmit the 10 rebels had been made following ‘discussions between the chief whip and individual MPs’.
The decision to restore the whip to the 10 rebels raises major questions about what will happen to the remaining 11 who as it stands will not be able to contest the next election as Tory candidates.
Those 11 are: Ken Clarke, Philip Hammond, Guto Bebb, David Gauke, Justine Greening, Dominic Grieve, Sam Gyimah, Sir Oliver Letwin, Anne Milton, Antoinette Sandbach and Rory Stewart.
Mr Gyimah is no longer in the equation because he has defected to the Liberal Democrats.
Meanwhile, Mr Stewart has said he intends to quit Westminster in order to contest the 2020 London mayoral election as an independent candidate.
A number of the 11 – including Ms Greening, Mr Clarke and Sir Oliver – have said they intend to stand down.
But for the others who do want to retain their status as an MP there are still major question marks about their respective futures.
Philip Hammond and Dominic Grieve are among the 11 former Tory rebels who have not had the party whip restored
Sir Oliver Letwin who has led rebel MP efforts to stop a No Deal Brexit has not had the whip restored
Guto Bebb will step down at the next election as will Ken Clarke, the former Tory chancellor
The original decision to expel the 21 Tory MPs following a crunch vote at the start of September sparked a political firestorm.
Mr Johnson faced intense pressure from his own backbenches as senior Conservative figures demanded that the MPs be given the whip back.
Many were particularly concerned at the expulsion of Sir Nicholas as they asked what had happened to the Conservative Party if it no longer had room for the grandson of Winston Churchill.
The decision to readmit the 10 rebels could also cause some political embarrassment to Mr Johnson during the imminent general election campaign given that some have been publicly critical of his leadership.
For example, Ms James, the MP for Stourbridge, recently suggested the Conservatives were not fit to run the country.
In a September 4 interview with a local paper discussing the Tory and Labour electoral chances she said: ‘At the moment I don’t think either party is fit to win an overall majority and govern the country.
‘The public would be taking a great risk on either of them in their current state.’