Allegations of bullying and blackmail by government whips further debase Boris Johnson

Editorial: Threats and malice are the whips’ trade, but what is perhaps new is the threat to withdraw public expenditure in certain parliamentary constituencies to force MPs to do as they are told

It is a remarkable feature of the present political landscape that the future governance of Britain rests on the varying, not to say wavering, bravery of Conservative backbenchers. Who, in other words, are they more frightened of? Like unwilling participants in a Westminster version of Squid Game, they are subject to pressures that are as diverse as they are intense, and appear to be in stalemate.

Is it the threats and alleged blackmail coming from special advisers and the party whips? These enforcers stand accused by William Wragg, himself a Tory MP and select committee chair, of bullying Tory MPs into supporting Boris Johnson. Or, depending on their majorities, are these hapless tribunes of their people more anxious about the anger of their electors? Do they stay awake at night worrying about whether their local associations, usually more loyal to the party’s leadership, will back them if they rebel against the prime minister?

Weighing such factors must leave little time for them to consider the wider national interest, or navigate the moral maze of Partygate. Sad to say, when politicians wrestle with their conscience, their conscience usually loses.

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