No10's attempts to pressure MPs trying to oust Boris are ILLEGAL, Commons 'sleaze' chief claims 1

No10’s attempts to pressure MPs trying to oust Boris are ILLEGAL, Commons ‘sleaze’ chief claims

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Downing Street’s attempts to ‘blackmail’ Tory MPs seeking to oust Boris Johnson are ‘illegal’, the chair of the Commons ‘sleaze’ watchdog warned today.

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Labour MP Chris Bryant, chairman of the Commons Standards Committee, said alleged threats to withdraw public funding from MPs’ constituencies amounted to ‘misconduct in public office’ and should be referred to the Metropolitan Police.

Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme, he said there were allegations that the embattled Prime Minister had even been directly involved as he fights to save his skin ahead of Sue Gray’s report into the ‘Partygate’ drama enveloping Westminster.

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Mr Bryant also warned that the Prime Minister might not publish Miss Gray’s report in full ‘if he doesn’t like the full text’, adding: ‘The fish rots from the head down’. 

His intervention came after William Wragg, the senior Conservative MP who first raised concerns about attempted ‘blackmail’ by No10, disclosed that he is to meet Scotland Yard chiefs to discuss his claims.

Mr Bryant said he had spoken to ‘about a dozen’ Conservatives in recent days who had either been threatened by Government whips with having funding cut from their constituencies or promised funding if they voted ‘the right way’.

‘I have even heard MPs alleging that the Prime Minister himself has been doing this,’ Mr Bryant told the Today programme.

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‘What I have said to all of those people is that I think that is misconduct in public office. The people who should be dealing with such allegations are the police.

‘We are not the United States. We don’t run a “pork barrel” system. It is illegal. We are meant to operate as MPs without fear or favour. The allocation of taxpayer funding to constituencies should be according to need, not according to the need to keep the Prime Minister in his job.’

Earlier, Mr Wragg said he would be meeting a Met detective in the House of Commons early next week, raising the prospect police could open an investigation.

The disclosure came after Downing Street said it would not be mounting its own inquiry into the claims, despite calls to do so by both Conservative and opposition MPs.

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Labour MP Chris Bryant, chairman of the Commons Standards Committee, said alleged threats to withdraw public funding from MPs’ constituencies amounted to ‘misconduct in public office’ and should be referred to the Metropolitan Police

Labour MP Chris Bryant, chairman of the Commons Standards Committee, said alleged threats to withdraw public funding from MPs’ constituencies amounted to ‘misconduct in public office’ and should be referred to the Metropolitan Police

Downing Street’s attempts to pressure Tory MPs seeking to oust Boris Johnson are ‘illegal’, the chair of the Commons ‘sleaze’ watchdog warned today

Downing Street’s attempts to pressure Tory MPs seeking to oust Boris Johnson are ‘illegal’, the chair of the Commons ‘sleaze’ watchdog warned today

William Wragg, the senior Conservative MP who shocked the country after raising concerns about attempted ‘blackmail’ by No10, disclosed that he is to meet Scotland Yard chiefs to discuss his claims

William Wragg, the senior Conservative MP who shocked the country after raising concerns about attempted ‘blackmail’ by No10, disclosed that he is to meet Scotland Yard chiefs to discuss his claims

‘Boris Johnson is unfit for office’: Ex- Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson takes aim at the PM and warns he is in a ‘perilous situation’ with growing ‘fatigue’ among MPs amid Partygate scandal 

Boris Johnson has demonstrated that he is ‘unfit for office’ over the ‘Partygate’ drama, a former Scottish Conservative leader has claimed.

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Tory peer Ruth Davidson, who successfully campaigned against Scottish independence in 2014 and quit frontline politics five years later, said the Prime Minister is in a ‘perilous situation’ ahead of Sue Gray’s report into the lockdown party scandal.

In an interview with The Times, the former MSP said that she would have already submitted her letter of no-confidence in Mr Johnson to the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers if she were a Member of Parliament.

She also warned that Mr Johnson’s authority was teetering in part because of a growing ‘fatigue’ within the party ‘for the amount of drama that has been emanating from No10’ over allegations of lockdown-busting gatherings across government.

‘I didn’t support him for the leadership and I believe what has been exposed to have happened in the last few weeks shows that he’s unfit for office,’ she told the paper.

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Miss Davidson has previously launched attacks on plans by Mr Johnson’s government to force people to show ID to be allowed to vote at elections, and its policy on Britain’s departure from the EU.

A No10 spokesman said it would only open an inquiry if it was presented with evidence to back up Mr Wragg’s assertions.

However, the MP, who chairs the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said he believed an investigation should be for the ‘experts’ in the police.

He told The Telegraph that he would outline ‘several’ examples of bullying and intimidation, in some cases involving public money.

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‘I stand by what I have said. No amount of gas-lighting will change that,’ he told the newspaper.

‘The offer of Number 10 to investigate is kind but I shall leave it to the experts. I am meeting the police early next week.’

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘As with any such allegations, should a criminal offence be reported to the Met, it would be considered.’

Mr Wragg’s latest intervention comes as No10 is braced for the expected delivery next week of the report of Miss Gray, the senior civil servant investigating lockdown parties in Downing Street and elsewhere in Whitehall.

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It is likely to lead to renewed calls from opposition parties for a police investigation if there is any evidence Covid rules were broken — including at a drinks do in May 2020 attended by Mr Johnson.

Mr Wragg, one of seven Tory MPs to have called publicly for the Prime Minister to resign, stunned Westminster with his allegations this week of a campaign of intimidation by No10 amounting to criminal conduct.

Christian Wakeford, the Bury South MP who defected to Labour, later described how the Tory whips had warned him over funding for a new school in his constituency if he rebelled in a vote over free school meals.

Ministers have sought to dismiss the allegations, insisting the whips had no role in the allocation of public funding.

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The latest disclosures will only fuel the febrile mood at Westminster, with Mr Johnson’s political survival hanging in the balance.

Mr Wakeford’s defection appeared to have put the plotting on hold as Tory MPs publicly rallied behind the leadership while the rebels largely went to ground.

However, the publication of Miss Gray’s report represents another moment of danger, potentially triggering a fresh wave of letters to the chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady.

Under party rules there will be a confidence vote in Mr Johnson if 54 of the party’s MPs write to Sir Graham calling for one. 

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Mr Johnson is expected to spend the weekend at Chequers, his official country residence, ringing round potential rebels urging them not to plunge the dagger.

The Times reported the Prime Minister had reassembled the ministerial team which helped him mount his successful leadership bid in 2019 as he seeks to shore up support.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is reportedly playing a key role in the operation along with three former whips and other loyalists. 

Rebel Tories have threatened to release a secret recording of Government whips allegedly making ‘blackmail’ threats. Backbenchers pushing for the Prime Minister to be replaced chaos claim to have taped party enforcers attempting to bully MPs, as well as having copies of text messages.

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Mr Johnson insisted on Thursday he had ‘seen no evidence’ to support the claim made by Mr Wragg that his critics were facing ‘intimidation’. 

They include an incendiary claim from defector Mr Wakeford that he was told finding for a new school in his Bury South constituency would be withheld if he did not back the Government in axing free meals for pupils.

Poll this week suggested Mr Johnson's popularity ratings have sunk to a similar level as Jeremy Corbyn before the 2019 general election, while Rishi Sunak is being seen more favourably

Poll this week suggested Mr Johnson’s popularity ratings have sunk to a similar level as Jeremy Corbyn before the 2019 general election, while Rishi Sunak is being seen more favourably

Meanwhile, Sue Gray (pictured) was said to have found an email warning Mr Johnson's principal private secretary Martin Reynolds against holding a drinks party in the No 10 garden

Meanwhile, Sue Gray (pictured) was said to have found an email warning Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds against holding a drinks party in the No 10 garden

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I want Boris Johnson to be Prime Minister for as long as possible, insists Foreign Secretary Liz Truss 

Liz Truss insisted yesterday that Boris Johnson should continue as Prime Minister for ‘as long as possible’ as Downing Street braced itself for the publication of the Partygate report.

The Foreign Secretary is a leading contender to replace the PM but scotched talk of any leadership contest – despite fears he could be challenged as early as next week.

Mr Johnson is expected to speak to several wobbling Tory MPs this weekend from his country retreat, Chequers, in an attempt to head off any threat. Insiders believe similar meetings earlier this week helped defuse the threat of the ‘Pork Pie Plot’ coup by Red Wall MPs.

The official inquiry into the Partygate row by Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray is expected to be published next week – and there is growing nervousness in Downing Street over what it will reveal. 

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She is said to have found an email warning Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, against holding a drinks party in the No 10 garden during the first Covid lockdown.

The email, sent by a senior official, told Mr Reynolds the gathering ‘should be cancelled because it broke the rules’, according to ITV News.

Mr Johnson has admitted attending the gathering in question for 25 minutes on May 20 2020, but insisted he believed it was a work event and that he was not warned it would be against the rules.

Several MPs are said to be waiting until the report is published to decide whether to submit letters of no confidence to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady.

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The Times reported that Tory MPs keen to see the back of Mr Johnson have secretly recorded ‘heated’ conversation with the chief whip Mark Spencer, as well as text messages to support the accusations.

The official inquiry into the Partygate row by Whitehall ethics chief Miss Gray is expected to be published next week – and there is growing nervousness in Downing Street over what it will reveal.

She is said to have found an email warning Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, against holding a drinks party in the No 10 garden during the first Covid lockdown.

The email, sent by a senior official, told Mr Reynolds the gathering ‘should be cancelled because it broke the rules’, according to ITV News.

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Mr Johnson has admitted attending the gathering in question for 25 minutes on May 20 2020, but insisted he believed it was a work event and that he was not warned it would be against the rules.

Several MPs are said to be waiting until the report is published to decide whether to submit letters of no confidence to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham.

Liz Truss escaped the Westminster storm this week as she flew to Australia with the Defence Secretary for trade and security talks.

She told reporters in Sydney yesterday that the PM ‘100 per cent’ has her backing.

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Miss Truss said: ‘He is doing an excellent job. Britain was one of the first countries to roll out the Covid vaccine.

‘We’ve had a very successful booster programme. We’re now able to open up our economy… one of the fastest-growing economies in the G7. I want the Prime Minister to continue as long as possible in his job. He is doing a fantastic job. There is no leadership election.’

Miss Truss has previously been accused of ‘overdoing it’ by lining herself up as a potential successor to Mr Johnson, with her trip to Australia being likened to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s impromptu dash to Devon last week. 

Mr Sunak visited a business in Ilfracombe last Wednesday – deserting Mr Johnson during his torrid Prime Minister’s Questions. Senior Tories said his conspicuous absence made him look ‘too eager’.

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Miss Truss consistently outscores her potential leadership rivals among Tory members – ConservativeHome’s latest poll gives her a favourability rating of 73, compared to the PM on minus 34.

Mr Johnson will use his meetings this weekend to urge MPs to ‘look at the bigger picture’, most notably the success of his strategy for dealing with the Omicron strain.

Last night fresh claims were made over details of the alleged Downing Street parties on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral. Staff reportedly partied until 1am in a seven-hour event during which photos were taken. It was claimed some went down a slide belonging to Wilfred Johnson, the PM’s son.

With concern that only a summary of the parties will be published in the report, Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said last night that it ‘must be open to scrutiny from all those who’ve lost loved ones and all those who stuck to the rules’.

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It comes as a former Scottish Conservative leader claimed that Mr Johnson has demonstrated that he is ‘unfit for office’ over the ‘Partygate’ drama.

Tory peer Ruth Davidson, who successfully campaigned against Scottish independence in 2014 and quit frontline politics five years later, said the Prime Minister is in a ‘perilous situation’ ahead of Miss Gray’s report into the lockdown party scandal.

In an interview with The Times, the former MSP said that she would have already submitted her letter of no-confidence in Mr Johnson to the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers if she were a Member of Parliament.

She also warned that Mr Johnson’s authority was teetering in part because of a growing ‘fatigue’ within the party ‘for the amount of drama that has been emanating from No10’ over allegations of lockdown-busting gatherings across government.

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‘I didn’t support him for the leadership and I believe what has been exposed to have happened in the last few weeks shows that he’s unfit for office,’ she told the paper.

Miss Davidson has previously launched attacks on plans by Mr Johnson’s government to force people to show ID to be allowed to vote at elections, and its policy on Britain’s departure from the EU.  

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