CONSERVATIVE MP Julian Lewis was left disappointed yesterday when he missed out on a top Commons job – by a whisker.

The New Forest East MP came up just 14 votes short in a hotly-contested battle to be the next chairman of the defence select committee.

Dr Lewis lost out to fellow Tory Rory Stewart, a former diplomat who wrote a book about his life as a senior official in charge of a province of occupied Iraq.

The former defence spokesman would have won if it had been a ‘first past the post’ election, having led on first preferences by 124 votes to 113.

But the MPs were using the ‘alternative vote’ (AV) system, under which second preferences are transferred until one candidate has more than 50 per cent.

Dr Lewis won through to the last round of voting, but was defeated by 226 votes to 212, in a result announced in the Commons chamber.

He congratulated the winner and joked that he would, at least, be able to retain his seat on parliament's intelligence and security committee, which scrutinises the UK’s ‘spooks’.

Dr Lewis had won the backing of many Labour MPs, after opposing David Cameron’s ill-fated bid to arm the rebels in the Syrian civil war.

Chairmen of select committees receive a £14,728 top-up to their MP's salary, in recognition of their extra duties.