Partygate: Boris Johnson denies reports of MPs being blackmailed over plot to overthrow him

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·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, to attend Prime Minister's Questions at the Houses of Parliament. Picture date: Wednesday January 19, 2022.
William Wragg MP urged MPs to report any attempt to “blackmail” them over their support for a no confidence motion against Johnson to the Metropolitan Police. (PA)

Boris Johnson has claimed not to have seen evidence to support allegations that MPs have been blackmailed to stop them rebelling against him.

Senior Tory MP William Wragg earlier accused the government of blackmailing rebels over the Partygate scandal which has engulfed Boris Johnson in recent weeks.

Wragg alleged that threats were made to cut funding to the constituencies of MPs who opposed Johnson and that embarrassing stories would be leaked to the press.

On a visit to Taunton hours after it broke, Johnson told reporters: “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.”

Read more: Tories 'threatened defecting MP with scrapping new school' amid new blackmail claims

Wragg urged MPs to report any attempt to blackmail them to the Metropolitan Police.

The shocking allegation has caused further divides in an anslready fractured Conservative party, with Wragg's colleagues issuing critical responses.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries called the claims "nonsense", telling the BBC: “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 tried to defend the party over allegations, saying police wouldn't have time to look at anything else if everyone reported threatening behaviour in Parliament.

He tweeted: "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! What nonsense from WW."

Downing Street did not deny the blackmail claims, saying they were "not away" of evidence to support the allegations.

Watch: Christian Wakeford MP claims the Tory party threatened a new school wouldn't go ahead if he didn't vote with the government

Johnson has faced the fight of his political life in recent weeks, after admitting to attending a party in the garden of Downing Street in May 2020, as the rest of the country was under strict COVID laws.

He has faced growing calls to resign and there are some reports that the threshold of 54 MPs calling for a vote of no confidence could be passed.

Tory committee chair William Wragg MP has accused Number 10 of blackmailing (Parliament)
Tory committee chair William Wragg MP has accused Number 10 of blackmailing. (Parliament)

Many potential mutineers are Red Wall MPs, who only entered the Commons in the 2019 election after snatching traditionally Labour-held seats.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said it would be a “contempt” to obstruct MPs in doing their duties by trying to “intimidate” them.

He told MPs: “Those who work for them are not above the criminal law. The investigation of allegedly criminal conduct is a matter for the police and decisions about prosecution are for the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service]. It will be wrong of me to interfere with such matters.

Watch: Health secretary Sajid Javid admits Boris Johnson should go if it's found he broke the law

“While the whipping system is long-established, it is of course a contempt to obstruct members in the discharge of their duty or to attempt to intimidate a member in their parliamentary conduct by threats.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner called for the “shocking accusations” of bullying and blackmail to be investigated.

In a statement she said: “These are grave & shocking accusations of bullying, blackmail & misuse of public money and must be investigated. That areas of our country will be starved of funding because MPs don't fall into line to prop up this failing PM is disgusting”

Sue Gray is handling the inquiry into the growing numbers of reports (PA/Gov)
Sue Gray is handling the inquiry into the growing numbers of reports. (PA/Gov)

Wragg's statement in full:

"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 from members of parliament’s 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 simply 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.

"As such, it would be my general advice to colleagues report these matters to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and they’re also welcome to contact me at any time."

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