UK Politics

Furious David Cameron 'confronted' Jesse Norman

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Media captionDavid Cameron is teased over alleged confrontation with Tory backbencher Jesse Norman

A Labour MP has told of the moment a furious David Cameron confronted a rebel Tory backbencher after Tuesday's vote on Lords reform.

Karl Turner said he saw the prime minister pointing in "a very aggressive manner" at Jesse Norman.

"I was taken aback because you don't expect to see the PM doing that to a colleague," said Mr Turner.

Downing Street sources said the incident had been "blown out of proportion".

Mr Norman was among 91 Tory MPs to vote against a mainly elected Lords, inflicting the biggest defeat for the coalition since it came to power.


Mr Turner said he was leaving the division lobby in the House of Commons shortly after Tuesday's vote when he saw Mr Cameron make a "beeline" for Jesse Norman.

"The prime minister was red-faced and clearly very very angry.

"I was taken aback because you don't expect to see the PM doing that to a colleague: pointing and prodding towards him in a very, very aggressive manner," Mr Turner told BBC Radio 5 live's Victoria Derbyshire.

"I heard the prime minister make a remark - that he didn't think Jesse Norman's behaviour had been honourable," he added.

Mr Turner said there was no shouting or swearing, but he was "taken aback" by Mr Cameron's behaviour.

"I was surprised to see the prime minister behaving in this way. It certainly wasn't prime ministerial in my opinion," said the Kingston-Upon-Hull East MP.

It had been a "fleeting incident" and as someone who had "grown up on a council estate, I have seen worse", he added.

But he said there had been "numerous witnesses" among other MPs.

'Decisive action'

Mr Norman, MP Hereford and Herefordshire South, was among the ringleaders of the backbench Tory rebellion and had earlier circulated an email to colleagues urging them to vote against reform, suggesting it would "help the PM".

"One single decisive action now will kill this Bill outright. It will be a vital blow for the authority and strength of the back benches," wrote Mr Norman in his email.

The government won a vote on the principle of reforming the Lords but was forced to ditch a vote to limit time for debating the bill amid signs they would be defeated, throwing the future of the plans into doubt.

Mr Norman refused to comment on the row when tackled about it, but added: "I think that the issue of House of Lords reform is far too important to be confused with personality politics.

"And I look forward to a material consideration of what happens to the Lords bill and hopefully its replacement with a bill that can actually make a better job of reforming the Upper House."

Asked if he was still on good terms with the prime minister, he said: "We will always be on good terms, as Charles James Fox said, there is no loss of friends."

Charles James Fox was an 18th century Whig politician noted for his colourful personal life and rivalry with William Pitt the Younger and radical anti-slavery views.

Downing Street sources have said the conversation between the PM and Mr Norman last night had been "blown out of proportion".

'Work together'

It is understood that Mr Cameron felt Mr Norman had implied the prime minister and Conservative whips were not committed to pushing the legislation through Parliament.

The No 10 source said: "The PM was rightly annoyed that Jesse had sent texts and emails that misrepresented his views.

"Jesse sent out a clarification, he got the points but this has been slightly blown out of proportion. There hasn't been some huge argument with Jesse Norman. David made his points and that was it."

Downing Street said the government now wanted to build a consensus around the bill and the timetable.

The prime minister's spokesman said: "If people who are in favour of reform work together, then this legislation will be passed".

This would seem to imply the government will seek to concentrate its efforts on securing a deal with Labour rather than convincing its own rebel backbenchers, said the BBC's chief political correspondent Norman Smith.

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