Tory Rebels Reportedly Mull Publishing 'Blackmail' Messages From Whips to Prove Intimidation Claims
06:49 GMT 21.01.2022 (Updated: 06:59 GMT 21.01.2022)
On Thursday, Boris Johnson rejected allegations of blackmail and intimidation of Tory MPs pushing for a no-confidence vote in the UK prime minister amid the "partygate" scandal by his staff raised earlier in the day by top Conservative William Wragg.
Conservative Party lawmakers in the UK, who want to force Prime Minister Boris Johnson
out of office, are contemplating publishing messages from Tory whips to prove they blackmailed and intimidated the MPs, The Times
The newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying that the so-called "Pork Pie plotters" "were comparing notes and discussing whether or not to make public texts and other evidence they have from the whips".
A group of about 20 individuals were named "Pork Pie plotters" after they reportedly held a gathering in the office of Alice Kearns MP for Melton Mowbray, also known as the home of pork pie making. They purportedly plan to oust Johnson by submitting enough no-confidence letters to the 1922 Committee so as to trigger a leadership challenge.
The source told The Times that "one member has recorded a heated conversation that they had with the chief whip". The Telegraph, in turn, cited an unnamed insider as saying that "we want the chief whip's head on a spike".
Other unnamed sources were cited by The Telegraph as saying that the allegations of threats and blackmail were "complete bullsh**". "Ask them for a single shred of evidence", the sources added.
The claims come as a No 10 spokesperson asserted that Downing Street is "not aware of any evidence to support what are clearly serious allegations". The spokesperson added that "if there is any evidence to support these claims we [the government] would look at it very carefully".
Prime Minister Johnson, for his part, argued that he had seen "no evidence to support any of those allegations", adding: "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".
Whips Accused of 'Blackmailing' Tory MPs Seeking PM's Removal From Office
Johnson's remarks followed senior Conservative lawmaker William Wragg claiming on Thursday that whips are threatening those party colleagues in parliament who are seeking to launch a vote of no confidence in Johnson's leadership after revelations of a host of booze-filled gatherings held on Downing Street during the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.
"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 no confidence" in Boris Johnson, Wragg, the chairman of the parliament's Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said.
Addressing the committee, Wragg claimed that rebel lawmakers are being threatened with the withdrawal of investments in their constituencies, despite such funds coming from the "public purse".
"The intimidation of a member of parliament is a serious matter. Moreover, reports of which I am aware seem to constitute blackmail", he stressed, urging his colleagues to report any such attempt to the Metropolitan Police, the speaker of the House, and himself. A Metropolitan Police spokesman later stated that as "with any such allegations, should a criminal offence be reported to the Met, it would be considered".
Wragg also claimed to have received reports that members of Johnson's staff, special advisers, government ministers, and others are encouraging the publication of stories in the press seeking to embarrass those they suspect of lacking confidence in the prime minister.
He spoke as senior civil servant Sue Gray is investigating at least 15 alleged lockdown-breaching parties at Downing Street and other government departments during the COVID restrictions
in 2020 and 2021. Sky News
has, meanwhile, reported that the results of the probe are expected on Monday, arguing that some in Whitehall are now nervous that Gray's probe may unearth "damaging evidence" related to Johnson.