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Tory whips accused of bullying MPs who oppose Boris Johnson | Conservative management

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Tory whips were accused on Thursday of using dirty tactics to intimidate rebels as Boris Johnson grew increasingly confident he could hold a vote of no confidence.

Although Johnson’s allies believe a vote is almost inevitable after the Downing Street party inquiry is published next week, a cabinet minister said on Thursday there were now significant doubts among rebels about their ability to defeat the Prime Minister.

The Guardian has learned of at least five MPs who have raised concerns that the government is threatening to fund their constituencies or encouraging the publication of damaging articles in newspapers.

MPs said the tactic was used not only during the so-called partygate scandal, but before votes on the Uyghur genocide, international aid cuts, free school meals and insurance hikes national. The Times reported that the rebels were considering releasing texts or recordings of their conversations with whips to show their tactics.

A No 10 spokesperson said: ‘We are not aware of any evidence to support what are clearly serious allegations. If there is evidence to support these claims, we will examine it very carefully. Johnson said he had “seen no evidence” of these threats.

The feud over whipping tactics came amid other developments such as:

  • An important email from a senior official warning Martin Reynolds not to hold the summer party on May 20 has now been obtained by the Sue Gray investigation.

  • The anger of Johnson’s critics intensified after sources said the rebels were losing their temper. MPs denied that the censorship letters had been withdrawn, calling them rotation by number 10.

  • Brexiter leader Steve Baker said it looked like a ‘checkmate’ for the Prime Minister.

While Johnson’s allies claimed the PM was given a reprieve ahead of the Gray report, senior Tory William Wragg, who chairs a government review panel, claimed there had been an attempt to blackmail certain colleagues involving public funds.

He urged MPs to report government ministers, whips and advisers to the president – and even the police.

Two of the MPs, Tory defector Christian Wakeford and Andrew Bridgen, another Johnson critic, spoke publicly on Thursday about the tactics they said had been deployed against them.

Wakeford supported Wragg’s claims that threats involving public funds had been made by the whips.

“I was threatened that I wouldn’t have a school for Radcliffe if I didn’t vote a particular way,” he said. “It’s a city that hasn’t had a high school for almost 10 years.

“How would you feel if they held down town regeneration for a vote. He didn’t sit comfortably. It was the start for me to question my place, where I was and ultimately where I am now.

Tory whips accused of bullying MPs who oppose Boris Johnson |  Conservative management

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Christian Wakeford claims he was threatened with loss of funding following a vote – video

Wragg, who chairs the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), which scrutinizes the work of government and the civil service, said he would break the ministerial code “by threatening to withdraw investments from constituencies of parliamentarians that are publicly funded”.

He said encouraging the publication of articles in newspapers would also be an offence. “Intimidation of an MP is a serious matter,” he added. “Furthermore, the reports of which I am aware appear to constitute 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.”

Bridgen, a Conservative backbench MP who was among the first MPs to call for Johnson’s departure, said he believed an article in The Times on Monday detailing his ties to a Ghana-based logging company had was inspired by No. 10.

“Not only am I convinced this has happened, but so are all of my colleagues,” Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire since 2010, told the Guardian. “One of them said to me, ‘It’s not even subtle these days.'”

A former minister said he was furious at the tactic of threatening to cut funding for seats. “He has exceptionally high leverage with our new colleagues. We have young new members with marginal seats in poor areas.

“This is precisely the area where the seat depends on money allocations and the race-to-the-top regime. The scope of this type of threat is much greater than it would have been. If you use this tactic, all red walls are susceptible to it.

Chair Lindsay Hoyle said allegations of potentially criminal offenses would be a matter for the police.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said the alleged threats to withdraw investment to force support for Johnson were “disgusting” and Ed Davey, the leader of the Lib Dem, said Johnson was “now in scorched earth mode “.

A cabinet minister said Johnson was growing confident he could “probably win” in a vote of no confidence and called the row of whips a “spectacle”.

He said his colleagues were starting to think it was “election suicide” to impeach Johnson. “When you start telling people that the Prime Minister who got us this huge majority might have to go through cheese and wine – well, that starts to sound ridiculous.”

But other MPs said Johnson was still in grave danger. “There are a lot of people who don’t like these kinds of threats; they don’t like bullies,” one MP said. Another MP opposed to Johnson denied that the letters of no confidence were withdrawn after Wakeford defected to Labour.

“These withdrawal briefings are a pure invention of No 10,” said one. “Wakeford may have remained in the hands of some people yesterday, but it’s not going the other way around.”

Johnson is understood to want Gray’s report released by Tuesday, to allow him to make a statement before facing another PMQ on Wednesday.

An important email from a senior official warning Martin Reynolds not to hold the summer party on May 20 has now been obtained by Gray, first reported by ITV.

Cabinet Office sources said she had already been given the power to search email records – which are kept even of outgoing officials. A Whitehall source said Gray was nearing the end of his investigation and a release next week was very likely.

Baker, a key Westminster figure who has often led rebellions including over Brexit and Covid, said he would not organize against the Prime Minister but said he would have to resign if he broke the law or misled Parliament.

“I am appalled that we have reached this position,” he told the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast.

“At the moment, I’m afraid it looks like checkmate, but if he can save himself, we’ll see… I’m very clear that if he broke the law or lied to the dispatch box, so he has to go. But one thing I would say I’m not going to stage against Boris Johnson, my heart wouldn’t be in it.”

Tory whips accused of bullying MPs who oppose Boris Johnson | Conservative management

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