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  1. ITV Report

Suspended MP's lewd message read out after he is allowed to vote in leadership ballot

Theresa May's government has been accused of neglecting victims of sexual abuse over its decision to restore the whip to two suspended Conservative MPs.

Labour's Jess Phillips accused Mrs May of prioritising political power after MPs Andrew Griffiths and Charlie Elphicke were allowed to vote in Wednesday's confidence ballot.

The whip had been withdrawn from Mr Griffiths, the MP for Burton, in July after he bombarded barmaid Imogen Treharne and a friend with 2,000 sexual texts.

The 48-year-old, who resigned as small business minister over the scandal, said he would be backing Mrs May in the vote.

On Thursday in the Commons, Ms Phillips read out one of those messages sent by Mr Griffiths as she questioned the reprieves granted.

Andrew Griffiths resigned as small business minister over his lewd texts. Credit: PA

She started by saying: "She's so cute, so sweet, I can't wait to beat her. Can she take a beating?

"Not my words, but the words of the MP for Burton, as he was barraging two of his female constituents with thousands of sexual text messages.

"Last night Mrs Leadsom's party gave him and the MP for Dover (Mr Elphicke) the whip back without any due process.

"What message does this send about how any process here in this place can ever be trusted?"

Ms Phillips added: "Can she answer that question, and also answer me to what matters more; political power or protecting victims of sexual harassment and abuse?"

Andrea Leadsom insisted a process had been undertaken. Credit: PA

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom replied saying she was "absolutely committed to changing the culture of this place and to seeing that everybody here is treated with dignity and respect".

As to the two MPs getting the whip back, she added: "There has been a process that has been undertaken, it has been a decision by the Chief Whip, it's not something that I have been privy to."

But that prompted shouts of "shame" from the Labour benches, and the Cabinet minister was accused of speaking "meaningless words".

After the scandal broke, Mr Griffiths apologised and said he was "deeply ashamed" and seeking "professional help to ensure it never happens again".

Charlie Elphicke denies the 'serious allegations' levelled against him. Credit: PA

Mr Elphicke was suspended by the Tories 13 months ago after "serious allegations" made against him were referred to the police. He has always denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Elphicke, who is believed to have voted against the PM, tweeted on Wednesday: "Important for my constituents to know that, 13 months after having it withdrawn, I have been given back the Conservative Whip.

"I remain as confident as I always have been of clearing my name and will continue to work as hard for Dover & Deal as I always have done."