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07th Jun 2022

Inside Boris Johnson’s Tory party: ‘They’re running this place like gangsters’

Ava Evans

‘They’ll probably claim I harassed someone, or bullied my staffers to get me banned from the estate’

Conservative MPs say they felt bullied and pressured into voting for Boris Johnson on Monday evening, following a confidence vote on the prime minister’s leadership.

Speaking to PoliticsJOE, backbench Conservative MPs said Downing Street was running parliament “like gangsters.”

One complained that a fellow MP, who had been arrested on suspicion of rape and banned from the parliamentary estate was still allowed to vote in the ballot – a decision they believe was made because the member in question had shown loyalty to the PM.

“You could still vote in the no confidence ballot after allegedly drugging and raping someone but not if you accidentally watch porn in the Commons,” one MP told me.

“It doesn’t make any sense, and that’s because it all boils down to loyalty.”

One senior backbencher said he feared having the whip removed if the government found out his voting intention.

“They’ll probably claim I harassed someone, or bullied my staffers to get me banned from the [parliamentary] estate,” he said.

On Monday evening, concerns were raised by the executives of the 1922 committee after several MPs reported the Tory whips were asking members to photograph their ballot papers to prove they had voted in favour of the PM.

As a result, all mobile phones were confiscated from Conservative MPs in a bid to maintain privacy and democratic norms.

It’s also understood that the chief whips had been offering incentives to rebel MPs in order to influence their ballot.

One MP told PoliticsJOE they had received messages from their whip asking “what do you want?” and “what’s your price” – offering large handouts and opportunities to secure chunks of levelling up funding.

In a more public bid to secure votes, Johnson gave a speech at the 1922 committee where he promised Conservative MPs tax cuts and a victory at the next general if they stuck by him.

This was later reflected in a letter to constituents written by Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight Bob Seely, who said the promise of funding had in part swayed his decision to vote confidence in the prime minister.

“I talked again with ministers about why a fair funding package has not yet been forthcoming for the Isle of Wight Council,” he wrote.

“I have been assured they will look at this again and will do so in the very near future, ahead of the ongoing review of local government finance”.

Boris Johnson narrowly survived the vote of no confidence in his leadership, meaning he will continue on as Prime Minister and party leader.

211 Tory MPs voted to keep Johnson in place following weeks of partygate-related political turmoil, with 148 against, a narrow margin that showed 41 per cent of his own MPs no longer had confidence in his leadership.

The process had been triggered after more than 54 MPs, or 15 per cent of the parliamentary party, sent letters withdrawing their support to Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 committee which represents backbench Conservatives.

While the current rules mean the Prime Minister is safe from a future leadership challenge for the next 12 months, former defence minister and backbench rebel Tobias Ellwood told Sky News on Tuesday morning that the 1922 committee are looking at amending the party rules.

If that happens, the PM could face a fresh confidence vote within the next year.

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