Boris Johnson's team accused of intimidating and blackmailing MPs questioning his leadership

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·4 min read
Boris Johnson's team accused of intimidating and blackmailing MPs questioning his leadership
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Boris Johnson
UK Prime Minister Boris JohnsonGetty
  • Boris Johnson's team has been accused of intimidating MPs who question his leadership.

  • Tory MP William Wragg said he had heard reports of what seemed to constitute blackmail of MPs.

  • Backbenchers told Insider Christian Wakeford had defected to Labour after 'bullying' behaviour from the whips.

Boris Johnson's team has been accused of intimidating Conservative MPs believed to be questioning his leadership of the party.

William Wragg, chair of the Public Administration and Consitutional Affairs Committee, made the accusation in a statement on Thursday morning, after a growing plot to oust the Prime Minister appeared to falter.

Wragg, who is also vice-chair of the 1922 committee, said a number of MPs had faced "pressures and intimidation" from members of the government "because of a declared or assumed desire for a vote of confidence in the party leadership of the Prime Minister."

He said that while government whips have a duty to secure government business in the House of Commons, it is "not their function to breach the ministerial code and threaten to withdraw investments from Members of Parliament's constituencies that are drawn from the public purse."

"Additionally, reports to me and others of members of staff at 10 Downing Street, special advisors, 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."

Wragg, who has called for Boris Johnson to resign in the wake of the partygate scandal, added: "Intimidation of a Member of Parliament is a serious matter. Moreover, the reports of which I am aware would seem to constitute blackmail. As such, it would be my general advice to colleagues to report these matters to the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. I also welcome them to contact me at any time."

His intervention comes a day after sources told Insider that Christian Wakeford's defection from the Conservative party to Labour had been triggered by "bullying", which one MP described as "vicious", including threats of deselection and cutting funding.

This morning, one MP said the behaviour extended further to include other members of the 2019 intake, including one-time poster girl Dehenna Davison, who has repeatedly stressed she is not involved in any plot to oust Johnson.

Parliamentary newcomers have also been told that their name will be made public if they submit a letter of no confidence, despite this being untrue. Others have been told that incriminating pictures of them attending gatherings that may have breached lockdown rules will be released, Insider understands.

One senior backbencher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: "It's got really nasty, and it has that feel of a death knock – the last few breaths are being gasped."

A second MP said: "The Prime Minister's view is that everyone else is put on this earth to make him Prime Minister, but he can't expect loyalty – this is exactly what he did to [Theresa] May.

"Loyalty is a two-way street."

However another said Wragg was "mad", adding: "It's absolutely standard and reasonable to say that MPs who support government positions will get party support. I suspect some whips have been heavy handed, but lots of colleagues equally expect disloyalty to be ignored."

A fourth said: "Welcome to politics. Intimidation and blackmail. Who knew?"

A Number 10 spokesperson told Insider: "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."

But opposition figures seized on Wragg's explosive comments, which come just a day after former Brexit secretary David Davis told Johnson "in the name of God, go".

Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader, said they were "grave and shocking accusations" and called for a full investigation.

Alistair Carmichael, Cabinet Office spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, told Insider: "It is unacceptable and probably illegal. The only way to beat bullies is to stand up to them. We must work together against this Putin-esque abuse of power."

Addressing the Commons minutes later, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the Commons, said they were "serious allegations" that must be properly studied.

"The investigation of allegedly criminal conduct is a matter for the police and decisions about prosecution for the CPS. It would be wrong of me to interfere with such matters," he added.

"While the whipping system is long established, it is a contempt to obstruct members in the discharge of their duty or to attempt to intimidate a member in their Parliamentary conduct by threats.

"There is clear process for raising privileged matters and referring them for investigation to determine whether the conduct in question is a contempt. In first instance members raising such concerns should write to me and I hope these general observations will assist the House in going forward."

Wakeford could not be reached this morning.

Read the original article on Business Insider