Boris Johnson's allies accused of blackmailing Conservative rebel MPs in latest 'partygate' allegation

William Wragg, an MP from the ruling Conservative Party, said a 'number of MPs have faced intimidation' in recent days after declaring, or assumed to have declared, their desire for a no-confidence vote against Johnson

Press Trust of India January 20, 2022 23:19:49 IST
Boris Johnson's allies accused of blackmailing Conservative rebel MPs in latest 'partygate' allegation

File image of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. AP

London: In the latest round of 'partygate' allegations threatening Boris Johnson's leadership, the British Prime Minister's allies were on Thursday accused of blackmailing rebel members of Parliament expressing a lack of confidence in him as Conservative Party leader.

William Wragg, a Conservative Party MP and Chair of the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said a "number of MPs have faced intimidation" in recent days after declaring, or assumed to have declared, their desire for a no-confidence vote against Johnson.

Wragg claimed the reports "would seem to constitute blackmail" and advised his affected colleagues to contact the police or the Speaker of the Commons.

"It is of course the duty of the government whips 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 constituency which are funded from the public purse," said Wragg.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle admitted these were "serious allegations" and told MPs with such concerns that they may write to him.

"It is contempt to obstruct members in the discharge of their duty or to attempt to intimidate a member in their parliamentary conduct by threats," said Hoyle.

Asked about the allegations, Johnson told reporters he had seen no evidence of such incidents but that his office would look into any claims.

"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," a Downing Street spokesperson said.

It comes a day after dramatic developments in Parliament, when a Tory MP walked across the floor of the Commons to join the Opposition Labour Party in protest against Johnson's leadership.

Besides the defection, a veteran Tory MP and former Brexit ally of Boris Johnson, David Davis, rose to demand that it was time for him to resign as Prime Minister amid a string of damaging allegations of lockdown rule breaches.

However, the defection and rebel plots somewhat subdued on Thursday as the majority of Conservative Party MPs are hesitant to trigger a leadership crisis that could prove disastrous for the Tory government.

Johnson, who announced an end to Plan B lockdown restrictions as he declared that the Omicron variant was in retreat, seems to have been galvanised by this mild reprieve within the party and seems determined to fight on.

However, there are reports of some nervousness within Downing Street ranks amid fears that top civil servant Sue Gray, investigating the 'partygate' scandal, may have found damning evidence against the UK prime minister which may show that he misled Parliament over how much he knew about parties being held in his office in apparent breach of lockdown rules.

At the heart of these claims lies a 20 May, 2020, garden party in Downing Street for which he apologised to the Commons last week.

Johnson has said that he will return to Parliament to make another statement once the internal investigation into wider breaches of lockdown rules within government quarters files its report next week.

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