Boris Johnson facing prospect of ‘cash for votes’ inquiry after claims Tory whips blackmailed MPs

The cabinet secretary is being urged to investigate the allegations

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Saturday 06 November 2021 23:27
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<p>The prime minister’s party was accused of using the prospect of cuts to blackmail its own MPs </p>

The prime minister’s party was accused of using the prospect of cuts to blackmail its own MPs

Boris Johnson is facing the prospect of a “cash for votes” inquiry into whether his party used public money to “blackmail” its own MPs.

During last week’s row over the Commons sleaze watchdog, the Conservative Party whips office was reported to have warned backbenchers their constituency areas would lose funding if they failed to vote with the government.

Now the cabinet secretary Simon Case is being urged to investigate the allegations – which opposition parties say would amount to a misuse of public funds.

The prime minister’s spokesperson did not deny the reports when questioned about them on Friday.

In a letter to Mr Case, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said it appeared that the government was “consistently threatening to withhold vital investment from communities across the UK, in an effort to blackmail backbenchers into voting a certain way”.

Sir Ed said an official inquiry was “urgently needed into whether this government has misused public funds to try and get their own MP off the hook”.

He added: “It is unthinkable that local communities would be punished by having vital funding taken away, just because their MPs refused to defend the indefensible.

“This would be a new ‘cash for votes’ scandal, using families and businesses as political bargaining chips to save the prime minister’s blushes.

“Boris Johnson keeps promising to level up, but instead he is dragging our politics to new lows.”

The government has also been criticised after it was revealed that its £4.8bn “levelling-up” fund funnelled cash to Conservative-voting areas by ignoring standard measures of deprivation and poverty when deciding where money should go.

The vote the MPs were allegedly threatened into backing was over whether to abolish the Commons corruption watchdog and replace it with a committee with an in-built Tory majority.

It also decided whether or not Tory MP Owen Paterson, who was found to have broken lobbying rules by lobbying on behalf of companies that paid him tens of thousands of pounds and has since resigned, should face any consequences for breaking the rules.

The cabinet secretary is expected to respond to Sir Ed’s letter about the claims on last week’s whipping operation in due course.

Mr Case was appointed to his role in September 2020 and was previously Mr Johnson’s Downing Street permanent secretary.

A government spokesperson said: “As the prime minister has said, paid lobbying and paid advocacy by ministers and MPs is absolutely wrong. All elected officials must abide by the rules of conduct, as the public have a right to expect.”

Mr Johnson said at Prime Minister’s Questions this week that those “found guilty of [paid lobbying] should apologise and pay the necessary penalties”.

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