Conservative MP accuses UK gov't of blackmailing lawmakers over confidence vote attempts
William Wragg says MPs that don't support British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over lockdown parties are threatened
A Conservative lawmaker's allegation that the government was trying to “blackmail” the party's MPs who push for a confidence vote in Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sent a shockwave in British politics on Thursday.
William Wragg, the Conservative chair of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, has accused the Johnson government of intimidating the MPs who demand a vote to out Johnson from the party's top position.
“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 said in a statement.
He said the government has threatened MPs “to withdraw investments from members of parliament's constituencies which are funded from the public purse,” describing the act as a breach of the ministerial code.
“Additionally, reports to me and others of members of staff at No 10 Downing Street, special advisers, government ministers and others encouraging the publication of stories in the press seeking to embarrass those who they suspect of lacking confidence in the prime minister is simply unacceptable,” Wragg said.
“The intimidation of a member of parliament is a serious matter.”
He said: “Moreover, the reports of which I'm aware would seem to constitute blackmail.
“As such, it would be my general advice to colleagues report these matters to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and they're also welcome to contact me at any time.”
The latest accusation has added to the pressure that the prime minister is under because of the drinking parties held at Downing Street while the nation was in full lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which Johnson repeatedly apologized for.
A statement from Downing Street 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.”
Later in a TV interview, Johnson said he has “seen no evidence to support any of those allegations.”
“What I am focused on is what we're doing to deal with the number one priority of the British people, which is coming through Covid,” he added.
Johnson has been under fire from opposition parties and more than 20 Tory MPs because of the parties held at Downing Street during the lockdowns in England – a time no more than two public members were able to meet and people could not visit their family members and friends in hospital due to restrictions introduced by the government.
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis on Wednesday became the most senior member yet to call on the embattled prime minister to resign, telling Johnson in parliament: “In the name of God, go.”
Wragg is one of the Tory MPs who openly asked Johnson to leave party leadership and the top government office. He had said MPs were "frankly worn out of defending what is invariably indefensible."