Former cabinet minister Chris Grayling has missed out on the chairmanship of parliament’s intelligence watchdog, in a blow to Number 10’s authority.
Former minister Grayling had been widely expected to be elected chair of the Conservative-dominated Intelligence and Security Committee after winning Boris Johnson’s support and urging Tory MPs to back him.
The ex transport minister – who awarded a £13.8m ferry contract to a firm with no ships and a website with pasted information from a takeaway outlet – would have overseen the work of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
But instead fellow Tory MP Julian Lewis secured the role, leading to fresh hopes a long-awaited report into Russian interference in UK politics will be published.
Former national security adviser Lord Ricketts had warned that Grayling – who earned the nickname ‘Failing Grayling’ during a chequered ministerial career – does not ‘match up’ to the authority and reputation of former chairs.
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Following Dr Lewis’ success, Ricketts said the body was now in the ‘hands of someone with much wider experience of defence and security’.
As well as Grayling and Lewis, the members of the ISC are Tory MPs Theresa Villiers, Sir John Hayes and Mark Pritchard, Labour MPs Dame Diana Johnson and Kevan Jones, the Labour peer Admiral Lord West and the SNP MP Stewart Hosie.
The committee has refused to release a breakdown of how its nine members – five Tories, three Labour and one SNP – voted, but the Express accused the new chair of launching a ‘bloodless coup’ alongside the opposition.
A committee source told the PA news agency: ‘This was a secret ballot but clearly for him (Grayling) to lose, some Tories decided not to vote for him.’
Johnson has faced criticism over the delay in appointing the committee which has not met since the last parliament was dissolved in November last year.
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: ‘With the ongoing pandemic, people are rightly worried. That is why it is more important than ever before that people can have faith in government.
‘Sadly, we have seen Boris Johnson drive a coach and horses through public trust by appointing yes-men to the intelligence committee. True to form, however, failing Grayling has been undone in his bid to be chair.
‘I hope we now have a committee with real teeth that can hold this government to account. That starts by publishing the report into Russian interference of our democracy before the summer recess so MPs can scrutinise it fully.’