It’s not much fun being a Tory backbench MP at the moment. Just when you think things couldn’t get any seedier, No 10 is reportedly threatening to withdraw funding for their constituencies if they don’t toe the party line in Commons votes.
It appears the Government threatened to punish voters to try to force MPs to support attempts to spare Tory MP Owen Paterson from suspension, after he broke parliamentary rules by lobbying for a private firm that paid him £100,000 a year. One backbencher said MPs were told “they would lose funding for their constituency” if they failed to vote with the Prime Minister, according to the Financial Times.
This is not the first time we’ve heard of No 10 using this underhand tactic to keep their MPs in line. One backbencher told PoliticsHome in September: ”There’s been threats made to a few people that they won’t get funding for projects if they don’t side with the Government… To try and hold back an entire area or prevent regeneration just to get you to vote for something you clearly don’t like, it’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with.”
This is shocking stuff. Not only does it undermine Parliament and weaken MPs’ independence, if true, the allegations are in the realms of criminal offence.
Threatening to cut off funding for local communities to force MPs to vote to save a disgraced MP also reveals the truth behind what the Government likes to style as ‘levelling up’. As always, it’s people from hard-up communities who end up paying the price.
Good Law Project has sent a pre-action protocol letter to Michael Gove inviting him to deny, if he can, that the alleged conduct happened, to turn over any documents evidencing it, and to stop the threats.
The reports suggest a very serious misuse of public money, in the realms of criminal conduct, by or for the Prime Minister. We will not stand by and watch.
If you are in a position to support this case, you can do so here.
Read our pre-action protocol (PAP) letter to Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.