“THE rebellion has clearly started.” That was Ian Blackford’s summation of events after the Conservative benches at PMQs were noticeably more empty than usual.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been used to strong support from within his party, but has seen that evaporate over his botched handling of the Owen Paterson scandal, amongst other sleaze allegations enveloping his government.

Johnson’s Tory Party handed down a three-line whip, the strongest available, to tell all its MPs to vote to protect Paterson from punishment for paid lobbying.

While many ignored the call, many that didn’t were reportedly furious at being called on to support Paterson despite outrage from the public.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson 'basically admits reforms wouldn't prevent Tory sleaze scandals'

Among those that did answer the call was Andrew Bowie MP, who has since quit as vice-chair of the Tory Party amid reports he was fed up of defending the government.

The reported war in the Conservative Party was highlighted by the SNP’s Westminster leader at FMQs.

“It used to always be said that the Tory MPs were behind the Prime Minister, but my goodness look at the gaps in the third, fourth, and fifth benches,” Blackford opened.

One fellow MP could be heard to quip that they were “all at their second jobs” amid the jeers in the chamber.

Blackford went on: “Mr Speaker, the rebellion has clearly started.”

The National:

The Conservative benches behind the Prime Minister at November 17's PMQs (above), compared with those same benches at PMQs on October 20 (below).

The National:

PoliticsHome correspondent Adam Payne tweeted that Portcullis House, a government office on Parliament Street, was “littered with Tory MPs who have seemingly decided to give #PMQs a miss and hang out there instead”.

He added: “It certainly doesn’t feel like a happy Tory Party at the moment.”

The i’s Paul Waugh commented: “Very noticeable how few MPs on the Tory benches for #PMQs, particularly behind the PM. A message from the backbenches to their whips?”

The BBC’s Lewis Goodall wrote that the Tory benches had been “pretty sparse”, adding that “relations between No10 and parliamentary party [are] arctic”.

The Mirror’s Pippa Crerar said the “empty green benches behind the PM should worry No10”.