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Dominic Grieve accused by Whip of betraying party

The Tory MP who led the Brexit rebellion against the Government last week was involved in an astonishing bust-up with the party’s Chief Whip in the wake of the shock defeat for Theresa May.

Dominic Grieve, the ‘rebel commander’, was harangued by Julian Smith and accused of betraying the party.

Mr Grieve – one of 11 Tories who on Wednesday night forced Mrs May to give the Commons a ‘meaningful vote’ on any Brexit deal the Prime Minister negotiates – was indignant and defended himself against the accusations.

The row began minutes after the result of last week’s vote was announced amid uproarious scenes in the Commons. Mr Smith, who has been Chief Whip for only six weeks, stormed up to Mr Grieve and said: ‘You’ve let me down.’

Mr Smith was furious that Mr Grieve had rejected a last-minute Government concession to buy-off the rebels by allowing MPs more scrutiny of the EU deal. Mr Grieve called it ‘too little, too late’.

ABRASIVE: Chief Whip Julian Smith told Dominic Grieve: ‘You’ve let me down’

During the confrontation with the Chief Whip, Mr Grieve – a former Attorney General who since the vote has received death threats from Brexit supporters – became unusually agitated and hit back against the claims of betrayal by saying: ‘I’ve done nothing of the sort!’

The row comes amid growing disquiet in Downing Street over the performance of Mr Smith, 46. He was given the job after the previous Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson, was promoted to Defence Secretary when Sir Michael Fallon lost his job over claims of inappropriate behaviour towards women. Sir Michael denies the allegations.

The Mail on Sunday understands that Mrs May’s Commons aide, George Hollingbery, remonstrated with Mr Smith for requiring the Prime Minister to come to the House for ‘unnecessary’ votes and said he was ‘tiring her out’.

The clash came during Mrs May’s exhausting negotiations with Brussels earlier this month, when Mr Hollingbery is understood to have told Mr Smith to stop asking Mrs May to attend Commons votes ‘we should be winning easily’.

Mr Smith had already infuriated No 10 by assuring them that Democratic Unionist Party MPs – whose votes are crucial to the minority Government – were on side during the EU negotiations, only for them embarrassingly to pull the plug at the 11th hour over the issue of the border with Ireland.

This newspaper has been told that Mr Smith is also facing a revolt within his own department after junior whips complained about his ‘abrasive’ management style.

His allies protest that his promotion to Chief Whip was a ‘hospital pass’ from Mr Williamson, who left the job before the most difficult votes in the Commons, and he can claim a ‘100 per cent’ success rate.

But junior whips who work for Mr Smith, gathering gossip on MPs and feeding back intelligence on voting intentions, say that they miss the ‘steely professionalism’ of Mr Williamson.

A source said: ‘He [Mr Smith] is not running a good operation. I find him oily and untrustworthy. He sucks up and kicks down. When Gavin was Chief Whip he realised that Julian was the ideal supplicant, easy to control. So when he moved into the Cabinet he basically told the PM to appoint him.

‘But Julian lacks even Gavin’s bonhomie, which is saying something, and he has been rubbing everyone up the wrong way.’

Mr Smith, the Skipton and Ripon MP, worked as a headhunter before entering Parliament in 2010.

INDIGNANT: Dominic Grieve was attacked for leading the Tory rebellion on Brexit

INDIGNANT: Dominic Grieve was attacked for leading the Tory rebellion on Brexit

After a spell at a comprehensive school he took his A-levels at the independent Millfield School in Somerset, followed by Birmingham University.

The row between Mr Smith and Mr Grieve is the latest in a string of Commons bust-ups revealed by this newspaper over the past month.

Labour MP Paul Farrelly squared up to a colleague in the chamber during a late-night Brexit vote, and Chancellor Philip Hammond and Mr Williamson had to be separated by the Prime Minister after a flare-up over Treasury sneers about the Defence Secretary looking like ‘Private Pike’ when he met veteran Armed Forces chiefs.

Asked yesterday whether Mrs May had full confidence in Mr Smith, a No 10 spokeswoman said: ‘Yes, of course.’