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New Tory sleaze row rocks Sunak

RISHI SUNAK was rocked by a fresh Tory sleaze scandal today with allegations that a back-bench MP had used party funds to pay off blackmailers.

Mark Menzies, MP for the Fylde in Lancashire, was reported to have told an official in his constituency party to urgently provide cash to pay “bad people” he was with in a flat last December.

In claims first reported in The Times, the official was repaid with campaign funds from a secret Tory-backing “business group” in the constituency.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer demanded that the police be called in to probe the story, commenting: “There are obviously a lot of unanswered questions in relation to these allegations. 

“Not least why it seems the Conservative Party took so long to act and whether they’ve reported this to the police, who it seems to me should be involved in this.”

Mr Menzies, a Tory activist since the age of 16, was suspended from the Conservative whip today as a result of the report, which he disputes.

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds wrote to her Tory counterpart Richard Holden, citing reports that one Conservative Party employee had claimed that the party wanted to brush the whole matter under the carpet. 

She said: “Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party have serious questions to answer about whether funds have been misused and why no action has been taken despite the allegations reportedly being known about since January.”

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps conceded that the party had been aware of the episode for some time but claimed that fresh information had only just emerged.

According to The Times, Mr Menzies had telephoned his 78-year-old campaign manager at 3.15am one day in December 2023 claiming to be locked in a flat by “some bad people” and could only be saved by the handing over of £5,000 as a “life and death” matter.

The newspaper claims the episode involved a man Mr Menzies had met on a dating website who he had accompanied first to his own flat and then to a second address. Drink was allegedly involved.

The sum needed to save the Tory MP later rose to £6,500, which the party official paid from her personal savings, only to be later reimbursed from local Conservative campaign funds raised by the shadowy business group.

Apparently it was not the first time the Fylde MP had needed bailing out.  Again, as per The Times report, £14,000 of Tory campaign cash had previously been transferred to Mr Menzies’ personal account to cover private medical bills in recent years.

In a statement today, Mr Menzies, also suspended from his official role as trade envoy to Peru and Colombia, 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.”

The bizarre scandal comes just days after another Tory MP, William Wragg, was suspended from the whip after admitting to handing over contact details of colleagues to an individual possibly seeking to compromise him.

And a by-election is taking place in a constituency next door to Fylde, Blackpool South, after Tory MP Scott Benton had to quit the Commons.

He had been caught by undercover journalists posing as gambling interests appearing to offer to leak confidential information and lobby ministers in return for payment.

In the present parliament other Tories have been sanctioned for everything from not declaring interests to groping in a Pall Mall club to watching pornography at work while searching for a website about tractors.

It is reminiscent of a similar tsunami of sleaze which rocked John Major’s administration in the dog days of Tory rule in the 1990s.

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