The prime minister insisted he had seen “no evidence” to back the claims, which come amid a vicious Tory civil war over allegations of lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street. But Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told The Independent that he believed a critical story about him which appeared days after he submitted a confidence letter was intended to deter colleagues from following his example.
“I was one of the first MPs out of the blocks calling for Boris Johnson to go, and within days there was a smear story out there,” said the North West Leicestershire MP. “That wasn’t just to intimidate me, it was used to intimidate other people and say to them ‘This is what will happen to you if you sign a letter’.”
Another MP said they and others had been “hounded” with negative briefings despite making it clear that they would wait for the Partygate report by Sue Gray before coming to a judgement – something the PM has appealed for people to do.
“There are a number of MPs who have told me there have been questions raised about funding,” said the red wall MP. “The whips appear to be picking on the ones they think are weaker, but it is rebounding on them because people who were previously unsure are now moving towards putting letters in.”
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