A lawmaker from Britain’s ruling Conservatives accused the government on Thursday (local time) of blackmailing opponents of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as internal party divisions over its beleaguered leader deepened.
William Wragg, a Tory MP, said lawmakers calling for a challenge to Johnson’s leadership had been intimidated and urged them to contact the police.
Wragg accused Johnson’s staff, government ministers and others of encouraging the publication of articles in the press seeking to embarrass those they suspected of lacking confidence in the prime minister. He also alleged that rebel lawmakers were threatened with a loss of public funding for their constituencies.
Wragg told a parliamentary committee session that such actions would appear to amount to blackmail. As such, I would generally advise my colleagues to report such matters to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
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Johnson dismissed the blackmail allegation as he visited a medical diagnostic center in south-west England on Thursday.
I have not seen any evidence to support these allegations, he said, although he added that he would of course look into the matter.
Whips, the officials tasked with maintaining discipline in Britain’s political parties, have long deployed persuasion to keep lawmakers in line and have sometimes been accused of crossing a line and using threats.
Wragg’s comments are the latest explosion in a Tory battle over Johnson’s future, sparked by allegations of parties breaking the lockdown by prime ministers’ staff during the pandemic.
Wragg is among a handful of Tory lawmakers openly calling on Johnson to face a no-confidence vote over the partygate scandal, which centers on allegations that Johnson and his staff broke government restrictions on the country. to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Senior civil servant Sue Gray is investigating claims government staff held late night parties, booze parties and wine hour Fridays while Britain was under coronavirus restrictions in 2020 and 2021.
Johnson apologized for attending a bring your own booze gathering in the garden of his Downing Street offices in May 2020, but said he considered the party a work gathering within the rules.
He urged critics to wait for Grays’ report, which is expected to be released next week.
Johnson and his supporters hope a defiant performance at Prime Ministers’ Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday, combined with anger over the defection of a Tory lawmaker to the opposition Labor Party, helped deter lawmakers from the party to try to overthrow the Prime Minister.
I think people have recognized that in fact this constant navel-gazing and internal debate is only to the benefit of our political opponents, Tory lawmaker Andrew Percy told the BBC.
But David Davis, a former cabinet minister who in parliament on Wednesday urged Johnson to In God’s Name Go For It, said any reprieve was likely temporary.
The party is going to have to make a decision or we risk dying from 1,000 cuts, he told the The telegraph of the day.
Steve Baker, leader of a group of hardline pro-Brexit Tories who previously backed Johnson, said the party was in dire straits.
We didn’t name Boris Johnson prime minister for his meticulous mastery of tedious rules, but it is appalling and the public is rightly furious, he told the BBC. Right now I’m afraid it looks like checkmate, but if he can save himself, let’s see.
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