And Lord Daniel Moylan, a former adviser to the under-pressure Prime Minister, said jittery Conservative MPs should instead focus on the serious problems he said the nation is currently facing, both at home and abroad. Westminster has been engulfed in chaos ever since Mr Johnson last week apologised in the Commons for attending a lockdown-busting drinks party in the Downing Street garden on May 20, 2020, insisting he had believed it to be a “work event”.
In a fresh twist, Tory MP for Hazel Grove William Wragg said critics considering triggering a no-confidence vote in the Prime Minister were receiving threats to “withdraw investments” from constituencies, as well as “intimidation” from No 10 staff.
Mr Wragg, chairman of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said the threats could amount to “blackmail” and urged colleagues to report them to the police.
Christian Wakeford, the Bury South MP who defected from the Tories to Labour, then said he was threatened that funding for a new school in his constituency would be withheld if he did not vote with the Government over free school meals.
However Lord Moylan suggested neither the Conservative Party nor the country as a whole has the time for a damaging leadership contest, should Mr Johnson ultimately end up being forced to quit.
Lord Moylan, who served as chief airport adviser to Mr Johnson when he was Mayor of London, told Express.co.uk: “Tory MPs need to remember that we’ve got the threat of a war between Ukraine, we have people at risk of starvation in Afghanistan and we have negotiations with the European Union that are vital for the unity of the United Kingdom.
“And this is just not the time to be messing about having a three month leadership contest with all the bitterness and division it will bring.”
Asked about the blackmail claims on Sky News on Friday, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “As far as the specific allegation about whips withholding funds, I think that’s completely unacceptable.
“Any form of blackmail and intimidation of that kind simply has no place in British politics.
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“If there was any evidence to support it, it would of course be looked at.”
Downing Street has also insisted the inquiry being carried out by senior official Sue Gray into gatherings across Whitehall during COVID-19 restrictions is “independent”.
Ms Gray’s investigation has consistently been described in such terms despite her being a senior civil servant.
Asked whether the probe was independent, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “Yes, it is.
“It is for that inquiry, that team, to establish the facts, we’ve said before it’s an independent investigation team, I think we’ve set that out from the start.”
The spokesman was asked what about the inquiry made it independent, and he said: “Well, as we’ve set out, it’s being run independently by a civil servant who’s been asked to establish the facts.”
Also on Friday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss offered her support to Boris Johnson and said “there is no leadership election” amid pressure on him to resign as Prime Minister.
While Tory MPs continue to disagree over his position, Ms Truss told reporters during a visit to Australia that Mr Johnson “100 percent” has her support and she wants him to “continue as long as possible in his job”.