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Boris Johnson: ‘blackmail’ threats made to Tory MPs, William Wragg says - what the PM said about the claims

MP William Wragg has made accusations that MPs who go against the Prime Minister were “intimidated” in an attempt to keep him in office

A senior Tory MP has accused Tory figures of “intimidating” and “blackmailing” MPs who criticise the Prime Minister’s position.

William Wragg, MP for Hazel Grove and the vice-chairman of the 1922 committee, made the claims after he said he had received reports of such behaviour.

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He said “members of staff at 10 Downing Street, special advisers, government ministers and others” had essentially blackmailed those who were believed to be against the Prime Minister by “encouraging the publication of stories in the press to embarrass” the MPs in question.

It comes as MP Christian Wakeford, who yesterday sensationally defected from the Conservatives to join the Labour party, said he had been blackmailed through a threat of withholding funds for his constituency if he did not back Mr Johnson.

What did William Wragg say about the accusations?

Mr Wragg, who is the chairman of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, made the claims during a hearing on Thursday (20 January).

He said he had received reports of some MPs being threatened with the leaking of “embarrassing” stories to the press if they did not support the Prime Minister amid rumours of a potential vote of no confidence and public calls for his resignation from senior figures such as David Davis.

Some MPs claimed they had been told funding for their constituency would be withheld if they did not support Mr Johnson’s position, with Tory defector, Christian Wakeford, among those making the allegations.

The now-Labour MP for Bury South said: “I was threatened that I would not get the school for Radcliffe if I did not vote in one particular way. This is a town that’s not had a high school for the best part of 10 years.

“How would you feel when holding back regeneration of a town for a vote, it didn’t sit comfortably. That was really starting to question my place where I was and ultimately to where I am now.”

During the committee hearing, Mr Wragg said: “In recent days, a number of Members of Parliament have faced pressures and intimidation from members of the Government because of their declared or assumed desire for a vote of confidence in the party leadership of the Prime Minister.

“It is, of course, the duty of the Government whip’s office to secure the Government’s business in the House of Commons.

“However, it is not their function to breach the ministerial code in threatening to withdraw investments for Members of Parliaments’ constituencies which are funded from the public purse.

“Additionally, reports to me and others of members of staff at No 10 Downing Street, special advisers, Government ministers and others, encouraging the publication of stories in the press seeking to embarrass those who they suspect of lacking confidence in the Prime Minister is similarly unacceptable.

“The intimidation of a Member of Parliament is a serious matter. Moreover, the reports of which I’m aware would seem to constitute blackmail.”

He encouraged those making the accusations to bring them to Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, and to the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

How has Boris Johnson responded to allegations?

The new accusations are a further headache for the Prime Minister, who is fighting calls for his resignation from opposition parties and some of his own MPs.

He has so far denied the claims of blackmail towards his own MPs.

Speaking to reporters with visiting Taunton, he said: “I’ve seen no evidence to support any of those allegations.

“What I am focused on is what we’re doing to deal with the number one priority of the British people, which is coming through Covid.”

When asked if he would look for evidence of intimidation tactics, he replied: “Of course.”

A Number 10 spokesman echoed the Prime Minister’s comments, saying: “We are not aware of any evidence to support what are clearly serious allegations.

“If there is any evidence to support these claims we would look at it very carefully.”

What have others said about the allegations?

Strong backers of Boris Johnson have come out to rubbish claims that those against him were being blackmailed.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries branded the accusations as “nonsense”, adding: “That is not how government works. The whips have no say over what happens in individual constituencies.

“It is just attention-seeking behaviour from William Wragg who has been a constant critic of the Prime Minister, who delivered us the greatest majority since Margaret Thatcher.”

Tory MP Michael Fabricant also pushed back against the accusations, saying: “If I reported every time I had been threatened by a whip or if a whip reported every time I had threatened them, the police wouldn’t have any time to conduct any other police work.”

However, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner called for an investigation into the claims.

She said: “These are grave and shocking accusations of bullying, blackmail and misuse of public money, and must be investigated thoroughly.

“The idea that areas of our country will be starved of funding because their MPs don’t fall into line to prop up this failing Prime Minister is disgusting.”

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