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MP Mark Menzies loses Tory whip as party investigates claims he misused funds

The Fylde MP is alleged to have used campaign funds to pay off ‘bad people’ and cover medical expenses

Archie Mitchell
Thursday 18 April 2024 12:36
Grant Shapps deflects questions about suspended Tory MP Mark Menzies

A Tory MP has had the whip suspended over claims he misused campaign funds in the latest sleaze scandal to rock Rishi Sunak’s party.

Mark Menzies is alleged to have used thousands of pounds given by donors to fund medical expenses and to have made a late-night call to a 78-year-old aide asking for help because he had been locked up by “bad people” demanding money for his release.

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

MP Mark Menzies has agreed to give up the Conservative whip while the party investigates claims he misused campaign funds (Richard Townshend/UK Parliament) (PA Media)

He has also now been suspended from his role as one of Mr Sunak’s international envoys. The unpaid, voluntary role was designed to help boost trade with Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina.

Tory HQ has known about the allegations for more than three months and only launched the investigation following the bombshell report. The decision raised questions about double standards after senior Tories spent weeks attacking Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner over the sale of her former council house in 2015.

Anneliese Dodds wrote to Tory chairman Richard Holden demanding to know why no action was taken despite the party knowing about the allegations.

The Labour chairman said the allegations against Mr Menzies were “deeply troubling” and the PM and Conservative Party have “serious questions to answer about whether funds have been misused and why no action has been taken”.

She added: “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.”

And a Labour source said: “It is absolutely incredible that Ric Holden and James Daly have been pressuring the police over Angela while sitting on this Mark Menzies case in CCHQ for three and a half months without thinking to report it.”

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

A spokesman for Tory chief whip Simon Hart said Mr Menzies had “agreed to relinquish the Conservative whip, pending the outcome of an investigation”, meaning he will now sit as an independent MP.

According to the 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, who is one of Rishi Sunak’s trade envoys, is also said to have called his 78-year-old former campaign manager at 3.15am one day in December, claiming he was locked in a flat and needed £5,000 as a matter of “life and death”.

The sum, which rose to £6,500, was eventually paid by his office manager from her personal bank account and subsequently reimbursed from funds raised from donors in an account named Fylde Westminster Group, it is alleged.

Defence secretary Grant Shapps tried to deflect questions about Mr Menzies’s suspension, asking to talk about the ‘two wars going on in the world’ instead (PA Wire)

According to a source close to Mr Menzies, the MP had met a man on an online dating website and gone to the man’s 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 up 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 where 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 a source close to the MP disputed this account and that the former campaign manager had been the one who suggested Mr Menzies use funds from the business account to pay his personal medical expenses, but she is understood to deny this.

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.”

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “The Conservative Party is investigating allegations made regarding a Member of Parliament. This process is rightfully confidential.

When our national security faces threats on many fronts, it is deeply concerning that some MPs are so open to traps, threats and manipulations

Liberal Democrat Daisy Cooper

“The party takes all allegations seriously and will always investigate any matters put to them.”

Defence secretary Grant Shapps tried to deflect questions about Mr Menzies’s suspension when asked on Thursday morning, urging Sky News to instead ask him about “the situation in Iran”.

A tetchy Mr Shapps said he was “not privy” to the details of the allegations against Mr Menzies and said he thought he was on TV to talk about “the two wars in the world”.

He confirmed an investigation is underway, but accused the presenter of “pursuing a line of questioning about something which I didn't come on to talk about because there were two wars in the world going on”.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said it was “frankly appalling” that the Conservative Party had been aware of the allegations for more than three months.

“When our national security faces threats on many fronts, it is deeply concerning that some MPs are so open to traps, threats and manipulations,” she said.

A decade ago Mr Menzies quit as a ministerial aide following allegations about his behaviour made by a Brazilian male escort.

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