Rift grows

Tory MP claims government ‘blackmailing’ plotters

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson says he will fight to save his job

A senior Tory has accused the government of threatening to withhold support to the constituencies of MPs plotting to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

William Wragg, one of the backbenchers calling on the PM to resign, said the rebels had faced “pressures and intimidation” from senior ministers.

He accused them of breaking the ministerial code and said they had threatened MPs with the withholding of funding for their constituencies.

No 10 said it was “not aware of any evidence” to support the allegations made by Mr Wragg who is chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

“If there is any evidence to support these claims we would look at it very carefully,” a Downing Street spokesperson added.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “These are grave and shocking accusations of bullying, blackmail, and misuse of public money and must be investigated thoroughly.

“The idea that areas of our country will be starved of funding because their MPs don’t fall into line to prop up this failing Prime Minister is disgusting. 

“On the day Labour is setting out plans to deal with the cost of living crisis affecting the whole country, the Tory party continues to descend further into chaos of its own making. The country deserves better than this out of touch, out of control, out of ideas government.”

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey accused Mr Johnson of “acting more like a mafia boss than a prime minister”.

The latest developments came as Mr Johnson made clear he will resist any attempt to oust him as leader over lockdown parties held in Downing Street.

He has called on potential rebels to wait for the outcome of civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry into parties, expected next week, before passing judgement on him.

But as relations between Mr Johnson and his backbenchers continue to deteriorate, Mr Wragg launched criticised the government handling of dissent among Tory MPs.

Speaking at the accounts committee meeting, he said he had received reports of government ministers, advisers and staff at No 10 “encouraging the publication of stories in the press seeking to embarrass” those suspected of lacking confidence in the PM.

He claimed the reports “would seem to constitute blackmail” – and as well as contacting police, affected MPs should contact the Commons Speaker or the police.

Cabinet Office Minister Stephen Barclay, who was attending the committee, said he would relay the concerns to the government.

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