A senior Conservative MP has accused Downing Street of threatening him and other colleagues over their opposition to Boris Johnson – and urged anyone who had been “blackmailed” to contact the police.
William Wragg – chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee – told MPs that Number 10 staff, special advisers and whips had warned that embarrassing stories would be released to the press if they did not support Johnson.
He also claimed Downing Street had threatened to withdraw funding to his constituency – and those of other backbenchers – if they did not withdraw their opposition to the prime minister.
“The intimidation of a member of parliament is a serious matter,” he said, adding: “The reports of which I’m aware would seem to constitute blackmail.”
Wragg is one of seven Conservatives to publicly call on Johnson to resign over the Partygate affair, and one of the first to make the demand publicly.
“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,” Wragg told a meeting of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on Thursday.
“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 constituencies which are funded from the public purse.
“Additionally, reports to me and others of members of staff at Number 10 Downing Street, special advisers, government ministers 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. 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.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “These are grave and 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.”