The senior MP who heads the Commons “sleaze” watchdog has warned Government attempts to pressurise Tory MPs seeking to oust Boris Johnson are illegal.
Chris Bryant, chairman of the Commons Standards Committee, said threats to withdraw public funding from MPs’ constituencies amounted to “misconduct in public office” and should be referred to the police.
He said there were even allegations the Prime Minister had been directly involved as he battles to save his job ahead of a keenly-awaited report into lockdown parties in Downing Street.
His intervention came after William Wragg, the senior Tory MP who first raised concerns about attempted “blackmail” by No 10, disclosed that he is to meet police to discuss his claims.
In a further development, it has been reported that the inquiry by senior civil servant Sue Gray has been widened to cover alleged parties at the the Downing Street flat Mr Johnson shares with his wife, Carrie, and their two children.
The Sunday Times said investigators have questioned claims that two Cabinet Office aides, Henry Newman and Josh Grimstone – who are both friends of Mrs Johnson and who were said to have visited the flat numerous occasions during lockdown, did so for work purposes.
Mr Bryant, who is a Labour MP, said he had spoken to “about a dozen” Conservatives in recent days who had either been threatened by Government whips with having funding cut from their constituencies or promised funding if they voted “the right way”.
“I have even heard MPs alleging that the Prime Minister himself has been doing this,” Mr Bryant told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“What I have said to all of those people is that I think that is misconduct in public office. The people who should be dealing with such allegations are the police.
“We are not the United States. We don’t run a ‘pork barrel’ system. It is illegal.
“We are meant to operate as MPs without fear or favour. The allocation of taxpayer funding to constituencies should be according to need, not according to the need to keep the Prime Minister in his job.”