You may or may not believe that a particular person should have been appointed as a Minister. But once he has been, it’s unjust to sack him because of charges that haven’t been proved, especially if made by a third party.
So I wrote on this site during early October, after Conor Burns was sacked as a Trade Minister – on the basis of an allegation from a third party that hadn’t been proved. The whip was also withdrawn from him.
My take was that Burns should have been suspended, not sacked, while the claim was investigated by the Party. Now it has been. And he’s been cleared.
Since this is so, he should get his old job as a Trade Minister, or an equivalent, in Rishi Sunak’s next reshuffle. And questions need to be asked about why Liz Truss made the decision to fire him.
There are lessons to be learned as the number of independent MPs rise – all of them elected under a party label, all of them suspended from their respective whips, five of them Conservatives.
Different though linked is the case of the Tory MP who has not had the whip removed but has been banned from entering the Palace of Westminster while the police investigate claims of rape and sexual assault.
Other claims about other MPs of various parties are doing the rounds (six of the suspended MPs are Labour, and last week’s Chester by-election followed the resignation of the party’s Chris Mathieson over “unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances’).
As far as the Conservatives are concerned, sometimes it will be necessary for the whip to be withdrawn after a claim, and sometimes it won’t be – that’s a judgement call which can’t be avoided.
After all, withdrawing the whip is necessarily a matter of public record, and it is a very serious matter to identify a person on the basis of unproven allegations.
But whether it should or shouldn’t be in any particular case that’s unproven, it’s deeply unjust to sack someone from their job in such circumstances. Suspension is the right course. As the wrong done to Burns confirms.