Keir Starmer demands police probe into suspended Tory MP over ‘bad people’ pay-off claims

Mark Menzies is accused of using thousands of pounds of party funds to pay off people who had locked him in a flat, but he disputes the allegations – while Labour says the Tories are a party of ‘stagnation, scandal and sleaze’

Archie Mitchell,Kate Devlin
Thursday 18 April 2024 20:11 BST
Labour demand answers about allegations of MP Mark Menzies misuse of campaign funds

Sir Keir Starmer has called for a police probe into allegations that a Tory MP misused campaign funds, in the latest sleaze scandal to rock Rishi Sunak’s party.

Mark Menzies was stripped of his role as a government envoy and suspended by the Conservative Party after the claims emerged.

But Labour accused the Tories of a “worrying pattern of cover-up and inaction” after reports emerged that the party had been aware of the allegations for months.

The call for a police investigation follows allegations that Mr Menzies used thousands of pounds given by donors to fund his private medical expenses, and that he made a late-night call to a 78-year-old aide asking for cash because he had been locked up by “bad people” who were demanding money.

The Fylde MP disputes the allegations, but the Conservative Party has launched an investigation into the claims.

As the scandal unfolds, Mark Menzies has been suspended from his role as one of Rishi Sunak’s international envoys (Mark Menzies MP/Facebook/iStock)

Labour leader Sir Keir said there were “a lot of unanswered questions... not least why it seems the Conservative Party took so long to act, and whether they’ve reported this to the police, who, it seems to me, should be involved in this”.

Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds denounced the “stagnation, scandal and sleaze” engulfing Mr Sunak’s party, and approached her Conservative counterpart Richard Holden to ascertain whether the police had been informed.

In a letter, she asked him: “When presented with evidence of an MP involving junior staff in paying thousands of pounds to ‘bad people’, did you immediately report this matter to the police? And if you have not yet, why not and will you do so today?”

She added: “Will you give the police full access to all evidence you have in this case?”

As the scandal unfolded, Mr Menzies was suspended from his role as one of Mr Sunak’s international envoys – an unpaid, voluntary role designed to help boost trade links.

Defence secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that the Conservatives had known about the allegations for some time. But he insisted new information had come to light.

According to The Times, £14,000 given by donors for use on Tory campaign activities was transferred to Mr Menzies’ personal bank accounts and used for private medical expenses.

The MP is also said to have called his elderly former campaign manager at 3.15am one morning in December, claiming he was locked in a flat and needed £5,000 as a matter of “life and death”.

Anneliese Dodds has called for the Tories to refer the allegations against Menzies to the police (Reuters)

The sum, which later rose to £6,500, was eventually paid from the office manager’s personal bank account, which was subsequently reimbursed using funds that had been raised by donors for campaigning purposes and were held in an account with the name Fylde Westminster Group, it is alleged.

According to a source close to Mr Menzies, the MP met a man on an online dating website and went to his flat, before subsequently going with another man to a second address where he continued drinking. He was sick at one point, and several people at the address demanded £5,000, claiming it was for cleaning and other expenses.

The source said Mr Menzies decided to pay them because he was scared of what would happen otherwise, but did not have the funds to transfer the money from his own savings.

There are other occasions on which Mr Menzies is said to have used money from the campaign fund to cover his personal expenses.

In 2020, he allegedly sought £3,000 to cover medical bills, but he did not repay the money and instead asked for and received a further £4,000, The Times reported.

The newspaper said that a source close to the MP had disputed this account, and that the former campaign manager had been the one who suggested Mr Menzies use funds from the business account to cover his personal medical expenses, but she is understood to have denied this.

Rishi Sunak’s government is engulfed by ‘stagnation, scandal and sleaze’, says Dodds (PA Wire)

A further £7,000 was received by Mr Menzies from the account in November, it is alleged.

In a statement to The Times, Mr Menzies said: “I strongly dispute the allegations put to me. I have fully complied with all the rules for declarations. As there is an investigation ongoing I will not be commenting further.”

Ms Dodds said: “Rishi Sunak promised professionalism, integrity and accountability at all levels. He has delivered stagnation, scandal and sleaze which is engulfing his party. Britain deserves better than this Conservative chaos.”

With a police probe underway into the Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner over the sale of her former council house in 2015, a Labour source added: “It is absolutely incredible that Richard Holden and [Tory deputy chair] James Daly have been pressuring the police over Angela while sitting on this Mark Menzies case in CCHQ.”

The suspension also raises the prospect of another tricky by-election for the Conservatives in Mr Menzies’ Fylde seat, where his majority of 16,000 is smaller than other majorities overturned so far by Labour during this parliament.

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