UK lawmaker says he'll go to police with 'blackmail' claims

·2 min read
Callum Wilson, senior PR manager at the Oddschecker betting odds comparison company poses for photographs with a betting chalk board showing their odds for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson exiting his role as Prime Minister and odds for who the next Prime Minister might be, backdropped by the Houses of Parliament in London, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Some Conservative lawmakers in Britain are talking about ousting their leader, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, over allegations that he and his staff held lockdown-breaching parties during the coronavirus pandemic. The party has a complex process for changing leaders that starts by lawmakers writing letters to demand a no-confidence vote. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

LONDON (AP) — A British politician who accuses the government of blackmailing opponents of Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will take his allegations to the police.

William Wragg, a lawmaker from the governing Conservative Party, said legislators calling for a challenge to Johnson’s leadership have faced “intimidation” that amounted to “blackmail.” He alleged that rebellious lawmakers had been threatened with a loss of public funding for their constituencies and had had embarrassing stories about them leaked to the press.

Johnson has said he’s “seen no evidence” to support Wragg’s claims.

Wragg told Saturday's Daily Telegraph newspaper that he would meet police early next week to discuss his claims of bullying and intimidation.

“I stand by what I have said. No amount of gaslighting will change that,” he told the newspaper.

London’s Metropolitan Police force said that “should a criminal offense be reported … it would be considered.”

The prime minister is facing a political crisis over allegations that he and staff held lockdown-flouting parties while Britain was under coronavirus restrictions.

A handful of Conservative lawmakers, including Wragg, have called for him to resign, while others are awaiting a report by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant appointed to investigate the “partygate” claims. Her findings are expected to be published next week.

Wragg’s allegations have cast a light on the shadowy world of whips — lawmakers tasked with maintaining party discipline and ensuring their colleagues back the government in key votes.

They use subtle and not-so-subtle pressure, and have sometimes been accused of crossing a line and using threats.

Christian Wakeford, a lawmaker who defected from the Conservatives to the opposition Labour Party on Wednesday, said he was told he would not get a new high school for his constituency “if I did not vote in one particular way.”

Other Conservative lawmakers said they had never been threatened by whips.

Labour lawmaker Chris Bryant, who heads the House of Commons standards committee, said the claims were reminiscent of U.S.-style “pork barrel politics,” and should not become part of the British system.

“We are meant to operate as MPs without fear or favor,” he said. “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.”