Boris Johnson’s attempt to draw a line under the Owen Paterson scandal failed on Monday night after MPs unexpectedly blocked a government motion.
Parliament was thrown into more chaos after ministers tried and failed to get their U-turn through parliament without a vote.
The government had hoped MPs would approve a motion to scrap the controversial standards reforms without an embarrassing division.
But as the deputy speaker Nigel Evans read out the name of the motion at 10pm he was greeted with a single shout of “object” from the Commons benches.
Under parliamentary procedure the shout means the motion, which was supposed to be a formality, was blocked.
Government ministers had hoped MPs would simply yell “aye”, waving through the change without a vote.
The intervention, by right-wing Conservative MP Christopher Chope, means government will have to schedule a full vote on the issue – or drop its plans to U-turn. Opposition parties branded the late-night episode a “farce”.
Speaking after MPs raised a point of order deputy speaker Mr Evans said it is now “up to the Government to re-programme that particular motion”.
The motion aimed to rescind the so-called Leadsom amendment, which set up a new standards committee with an in-built Tory majority. It would have also left off MP Owen Paterson, who was found guilty of breaching lobbying rules. Mr Paterson dramatically quit as an MP last week when the government said it would in fact allow him to be punished.
The establishment of the committee and the lifting of sanctions on Mr Paterson caused an outcry and opposition parties pledged to boycott it. The government has since said it would drop the plans and Monday night’s motion had been its bid to make good of this promise.
Thangam Debbonaire, Labour’s shadow leader of the Commons, said: “You couldn’t make it up. Two weeks ago the Prime Minister forced Tory MPs to tear up the rules on Standards just to protect one of their own. Now they can’t even clear up their own mess.
“Tonight’s farce is of the Tories’ own making and serves Boris Johnson right for trying to sneak a u-turn out at night rather than do the decent thing and come to the House to apologise for the Tory sleaze scandal.
“At the moment, it doesn’t look like the Tories could organise a drinks party in a brewery. The Prime Minister needs to get a grip.”