Was Brandon Lewis pairing scandal a ‘mistake’ or cheating?

Brandon Lewis is in hot water over voting when he was pairedPhoto: PA / Stefan Rousseau

Brandon Lewis is in hot water over voting when he was pairedPhoto: PA / Stefan Rousseau - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Voting when you are a 'paired' MP is deemed a cardinal sin in Westminster.

But when you are as high-profile as Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis and the vote is a crunch Brexit division it becomes a scandal.

The fact that the Tory party chairman did not vote in seven divisions on the Trade Bill, after pairing with new mother Jo Swinson, and then did go through the lobby on the two closest votes is not a good look.

Pairing is when an MP sits out a vote out in order to allow another – who would have voted the other way – to be absent. It is commonly used when people are ill, pregnant or new parents.

Mr Lewis and chief whip Julian Smith – whose job it is to make sure pairing runs smoothly – both look at best rather silly. At worst they look like cheats. Mr Lewis has apologised though and all concerned say it was an honest mistake – apart from the furious Ms Swinson. It is rare but accidental voting does happen.

So we should take Mr Lewis at his word – Mr Smith has more serious questions to answer.

But a dressing down from the boss is certainly deserved. During the weekly questions to the prime minister Theresa May said: 'The breaking of the pair was done in error, it was not good enough and it won't be repeated.'

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