BoJo Says 'No Evidence to Support' Allegations of Blackmail Against MPs Pushing for Confidence Vote
16:59 GMT 20.01.2022 (Updated: 15:17 GMT 28.05.2023)
William Wragg, Conservative chair of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee – one of a handful of Tories to have publicly admitted to submitting letters to the 1922 Committee – earlier accused the government of trying to "blackmail" MPs pushing for a confidence vote in the prime minister.
said on Thursday he had not seen any evidence of allegations of blackmail or intimidation by his staff targeting Tory MPs pushing for a confidence vote in the prime minister.
In response to incendiary claims made by William Wragg, the Tory chairman of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, BoJo told broadcasters during a visit to Taunton:
"I've 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".
Earlier, a spokesperson for 10 Downing Street said that it was not aware of any evidence to support allegations of intimidation of politicians opposed to the PM.
"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", stated the spokesperson.
'Intimidation Amounting to Blackmail'
At the start of a Commons committee hearing with Cabinet Office Minister Steve Barclay on Thursday, William Wragg accused No 10 of resorting to "blackmail" against Tory MPs seen as undermining Boris Johnson.
"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", he stated.
The Tory politician emphasised that the conduct of government whips threatening to withdraw public funding from "rebel" MPs' constituencies may have amounted to 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. The intimidation of a member of parliament is a serious matter. Moreover, the reports of which I'm aware would seem to constitute blackmail".
William Wragg advised his colleagues to report such matters to the speaker of the House of Commons and the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
Wragg is one of the group of Tory MPs who publicly revealed they had submitted a letter to the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, calling for a no-confidence vote in Johnson's leadership in the wake of the so-called "partygate" row. A total of 54 letters need to be submitted in order for a vote to be triggered.
So far, embattled Boris Johnson has managed to fend off attempts to oust him. He faced a torrid Commons session on Wednesday during the PMQs, when Red Wall MP Christian Wakeford defected to Labour and senior Tory David Davis openly called on the PM to quit.
20 January 2022, 06:17 GMT
Earlier reports had claimed that a group of about 20 Tory MPs from the 2019 intake had conceived a plot to topple Johnson by submitting enough no-confidence letters en masse. However, the "Pork Pie plotters", so dubbed after a reported meeting in the office of Alicia Kearns, whose Rutland and Melton seat is the home of pork pie making, had fallen short of the required amount of missives. Reports suggested
no more than 11 such letters had been penned on Wednesday.
19 January 2022, 06:25 GMT
Currently, MPs are waiting for the findings of civil servant Sue Gray's report
into more than 15 alleged lockdown-breaching parties at Downing Street and other government departments during the 2020 pandemic restrictions before they decide whether they will send no confidence letters.