Downing Street declines to investigate MPs’ blackmail allegations

MPs critical of Johnson claim they were intimidated into backing government in votes

 UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng:  “Any form of blackmail and intimidation of that kind simply has no place in British politics . . . But I find it very unlikely that these allegations are true.” Photograph:  Victoria Jones/PA

UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng: “Any form of blackmail and intimidation of that kind simply has no place in British politics . . . But I find it very unlikely that these allegations are true.” Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

 

Downing Street has said it will not investigate allegations that Conservative MPs critical of Boris Johnson have faced intimidation and blackmail. The prime minister’s spokesman said No 10 had no proof of such behaviour and would look carefully at any evidence but would not look for it.

“We’re not aware of any evidence to support what are clearly serious allegations. If there was any evidence to support it, it would of course be looked at,” the spokesman said.

William Wragg, a senior Conservative MP and select committee chair, alleged this week that some of the intimidation could constitute criminal behaviour. And Christian Wakeford, the Bury South MP who defected on Wednesday from the Conservatives to Labour, claimed that whips had threatened to block a new school in his constituency if he voted against the government.

Former Conservative MP Ben Howlett said that he had been threatened with the withholding of funds for his constituency if he did not back the government in Brexit votes.

‘Completely unacceptable’

“There were some very dicey votes for the government and I was campaigning to receive government funding, and of course one of the tactics used to make sure I fell into line on some of the Brexit rebellions was to threaten the withholding of money to pay for an investigation into whether or not this link road would have been built,” he told the BBC.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the behaviour described was completely unacceptable but he doubted that the allegations were true.

“As far as the specific allegation about whips withholding funds, I think that’s completely unacceptable. Any form of blackmail and intimidation of that kind simply has no place in British politics. We need to get to the bottom of the matter. But I find it very unlikely that these allegations are true,” he told Sky News.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray is expected to report next week on allegations of lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street. She will send a copy of the report to Mr Johnson ahead of publication and the prime minister has promised to make a statement to the House of Commons and answer questions from MPs when it is published.

Distraction technique

The Daily Telegraph on Friday published new details of two parties in Downing Street on April 16th last year, the day before Prince Philip’s funeral was held at Windsor under strict lockdown conditions. People were served wine and spirits with mixers in plastic disposable cups, with alcohol at one point getting spilled on an office printer, the paper said, adding that it had seen a photograph taken at one of the parties.

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford suggested on Friday that Mr Johnson’s decision to scrap all coronavirus restrictions was an attempt to distract from the Downing Street parties.

“Everything that goes on in Whitehall and Westminster at the moment for the UK government is seen exclusively through the lens of ‘how does this make a difference to the efforts that are being made to shore up the position of the prime minister?” he said.

“This is a government that at the moment is simply not capable of doing the ordinary business of government in a competent and sensible way because it is overwhelmed by the headlines that surround the dreadful events that went on in Downing Street.”