The 18 MPs who are currently whipless

Left to right, Diane Abbott, Mark Menzies and Matt Hancock are among the MPs currently sitting as independents after losing their party whips
Diane Abbott, Mark Menzies and Matt Hancock are among the MPs currently sitting as independents after losing their party whips

The number of independent MPs has now risen to 18 after Mark Menzies lost the Conservative whip over allegations of misuse of campaign funds.

A series of scandals and disciplinary problems have seen a large number of MPs lose the party whip over the course of the current Parliament, with several going on to either resign their seats or be recalled by their constituents.

The current group, which numbers three more MPs than the Liberal Democrats’ total elected members, includes eight former Conservatives and seven former Labour MPs, along with one apiece from the SNP, DUP and Plaid Cymru.

Another 20 MPs have either resigned their party’s whip or had the whip withdrawn since the 2019 election, before either leaving Parliament, joining another party or having the whip restored.

Below is a list of those independent MPs and the reasons they lost their party whips.

Diane Abbott, the veteran former shadow frontbencher, lost the Labour whip in April last year after writing a letter to The Observer newspaper in which she suggested that Jewish, Irish and Travellers are not subject to racism “all their lives”.

She subsequently apologised, suggesting that “errors arose” in her initial draft letter to the newspaper, but remains subject to an internal investigation by the Labour Party and has not had the whip returned.

Crispin Blunt had the Conservative whip withdrawn following his arrest on suspicion of rape and possession of controlled substances in October.

He remains on police bail and has said that he is “confident” the investigation will not result in a charge.

Andrew Bridgen had the Conservative whip suspended in January last year after he tweeted comments comparing the Covid vaccine to the Holocaust.

Simon Hart, the Tory chief whip, said that Mr Bridgen had “crossed a line, causing great offence in the process”.

He later joined the Reclaim Party, led by Laurence Fox, before choosing to sit as an independent again seven months later over a “difference in direction”.

Nick Brown, the long-serving MP and former chief whip, lost the Labour whip in September 2022 pending the outcome of an internal investigation into a complaint against him. The nature of the complaint has not been made public.

Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader of the Labour Party, had the whip removed and was suspended by the party in 2020 after responding to a highly critical report on anti-Semitism within the party by saying the scale of the problem had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.

He subsequently had his party membership reinstated and attempted to clarify his comments by saying that concerns about anti-Semitism are “neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated”’.

However, Sir Keir Starmer, the current Labour leader, has refused to readmit him to the ranks.

Labour withdrew the whip from Geraint Davies over allegations of sexual harassment made in June last year.

He is also facing allegations that he “boasted” about bringing sex workers into Parliament for drinks.

The party is carrying out its own investigation into the claims, which Mr Davies denies.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson resigned as leader of the DUP in March after he was charged with historical sex offences.

The 61-year-old is due to appear in court in Newry, Co Down, on April 24, having been arrested and charged in relation to non-recent sexual allegations. He denies the allegations.

Plaid Cymru withdrew the whip from Jonathan Edwards in May 2020 after the MP was arrested on suspicion of assault. He later accepted a police caution for assaulting his wife.

In August 2022, Plaid Cymru said that it would readmit Mr Edwards to its Westminster group, but the MP chose to remain an independent, saying this would allow a “period of calm reflection”, after his wife denounced the party’s decision.

Matt Hancock, the former health secretary, was stripped of the Conservative whip in November 2022 after announcing he had flown to Australia to appear on I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, despite Parliament being in session.

Mr Hancock subsequently announced his intention to stand down as an MP at the next election.

Julian Knight (Solihull)

Julian Knight, a senior Tory, had the whip suspended in December 2022 after the news that he was the subject of an allegation of serious sexual assault reported to the Metropolitan Police.

The investigation was subsequently referred to Essex Police, but the inquiry was closed in February after the force decided there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.

Mr Knight welcomed the decision, saying that he would take “a little time now to choose my next steps and recover my mental health” and adding that he would “under no circumstances” seek the return of the Conservative whip.

Angus Brendan MacNeil, the veteran MP, was expelled from the SNP in August last year following a long-running dispute with its leadership.

He was initially suspended from the SNP’s parliamentary party in July after a row with Brendan O’Hara, the SNP’s chief whip at the time, but then refused to rejoin the group once his suspension ended.

In a statement, he accused the party of a lack of urgency in pursuing independence and was then expelled, with the SNP saying MPs should not “pick and choose” when they hold the party whip.

Labour suspended Conor McGinn in December 2022 pending an internal party investigation into a complaint against him. The nature of the complaint has not been made public.

Mark Menzies lost the Conservative whip late on Wednesday after The Times published allegations that he had misused campaign funds.

The MP is alleged to have used money from donors to cover medical expenses and to reimburse staff who provided him with thousands of pounds to pay off “bad people” who had locked him in a flat.

Mr Menzies disputes the allegations and is the subject of an internal investigation by the Conservative Party.

Labour suspended the whip from Kate Osamor over comments she made in January in which she appeared to say in a post about Holocaust Memorial Day that the war in Gaza should be remembered as a genocide.

Ms Osamor apologised for “any offence caused” by her remarks but remains suspended.

Another Labour MP suspended over remarks about the ongoing conflict in Gaza, Andy McDonald, had the whip restored in March after an investigation found he had not broken party rules.

Rob Roberts was suspended by the Conservatives in May 2021 after parliamentary authorities found that he had made repeated and unwanted advances towards a member of staff.

Mr Roberts apologised for his actions and was suspended from the Commons for six weeks, with several MPs urging him to resign.

Bob Stewart, the long-serving MP and a former Army officer, relinquished the Conservative whip in November following his conviction for racially abusing an activist by telling him to “go back to Bahrain”.

Mr Stewart’s conviction was overturned on appeal in February, but he remains under investigation by Parliament’s standards watchdog and continues to sit as an independent.

Claudia Webbe has sat as an independent since September 2020, when she lost the Labour whip after being charged with harassment.

She was convicted of the offence a year later and given a suspended 10-week prison sentence and ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service.

In May 2022, she lost an appeal against her conviction, but had her sentence reduced to 80 hours of community service.

William Wragg, the former chairman of the select committee and the former vice-chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench Conservative MPs, gave up his party’s whip earlier this month after being implicated in a Westminster honeytrap scandal.

Mr Wragg admitted giving the personal phone numbers of some of his colleagues to a man he met on a dating app, who subsequently contacted those people in a suspected scam.

The MP said he had passed on the numbers because he feared the man would otherwise release compromising information about him.