Go to police, senior Tory urges ‘intimidated’ backbenchers

A senior Conservative MP has urged Tory backbenchers facing “intimidation” over their support for a no confidence motion in Boris Johnson to report it to the police.

William Wragg, chairman of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said he has received reports of conduct amounting to “blackmail”.

He said they include “members of staff at 10 Downing Street, special advisers, government ministers and others encouraging the publication of stories in the press seeking to embarrass those they who suspect of lacking confidence in the Prime Minister”.

“The intimidation of a Member of Parliament is a serious matter. Reports of which I am aware would seem to constitute blackmail,” he said at the start of a committee hearing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Issue date: Wednesday January 19, 2022.

“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 Metropolitan Police.”

Mr Wragg is one of a handful of Tory MPs to have said publicly they have submitted a letter to the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, calling for a no-confidence vote.

Speaking as the committee prepared to take evidence from Cabinet Office minister Stephen Barclay, he said the conduct of the Government Whips’ Office threatening to withdraw public funding from MPs’ constituencies may have breached the ministerial code.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said there must be a full investigation into Mr Wragg’s claims.

“These are grave and shocking accusations of bullying, blackmail, and misuse of public money and must be investigated thoroughly,” she said.

“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. ”

In response to Mr Wragg’s statement, a No 10 spokesman said: “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.”

Asked if there are plans to hold an inquiry into the allegation, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman responded: “Certainly not that I’m aware of.”

In the Commons, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said it would be a “contempt” to obstruct MPs in doing their duties by trying to “intimidate” them.

He noted that “serious allegations” had been made by Mr Wragg, before offering general guidance to MPs as he had not yet had a chance to study the specific details.

“The investigation of allegedly criminal conduct is a matter for the police, and decisions about prosecution are for the CPS,” he said.