Starmer says police ‘should be involved’ in allegations about suspended Tory MP Menzies

Politics

Sir Keir Starmer said police should be involved in the case of suspended Tory MP Mark Menzies, who faces allegations he misused campaign funds.

The backbench MP for Flyde in Lancashire has lost the Conservative whip after The Times published claims he had used political donations to cover medical expenses and pay off “bad people” who had locked him in a flat and demanded thousands of pounds for his release.

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Mr Menzies disputes the allegations, and the Conservative Party has said it is looking into the claims and takes them seriously.

The Labour leader told reporters during a visit to Teesside: “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.”

He said there is a “degree of frustration” that two weeks away from the local elections “yet again we’re talking about misbehaviour by Tory MPs”.

Pic: UK Parliament
Image:
Mark Menzies, Pic: UK Parliament

“If ever you needed evidence of why we need to turn the page on this … and have a fresh start with Labour, I think it’s in these allegations coming out today,” he said.

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Sir Keir’s comments come after shadow leader of the house Lucy Powell said the “extraordinary” report raised “very serious questions” and warranted a police investigation.

Speaking in the Commons, she also questioned the handling of the claims by the Conservatives, saying there was “a worrying pattern here of cover-up and inaction” in reference to reports the party had been aware of the allegations for more than three months.

Sky News understands there had been an investigation ongoing by Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) but further information came to light yesterday and Simon Hart, the Tory party chief whip, acted immediately.

Referring to recent revelations regarding a “honeytrap” scandal in Westminster, Ms Powell added: “It seems that yet again, like with the Member for Hazel Grove (William Wragg) and so many other recent cases of sleaze and scandal, they’re too weak to act decisively and instead choose to brush things under the carpet.”

Mr Wragg gave up the whip last week after he admitted to The Times he had given his colleagues’ phone numbers to someone he met on a dating app.

The senior backbencher apologised and said the person “had compromising things on me. They wouldn’t leave me alone”.

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt declined to comment on the specific cases, but said the issues raised by Ms Powell were “very serious matters”.

Earlier, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps denied suggestions there was a problem within the Tory party, telling Sky News: “There are MPs from other parties that have experienced similar problems or misdemeanours and it is right that there are processes in place.”

What has been alleged in The Times?

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Mr Menzies, who has served as an MP since May 2010, is reported to have phoned his 78-year-old former campaign manager at 3.15am last December, saying he was locked in a flat by “bad people” and needed £5,000 as a matter of “life and death”.

The sum, which rose to £6,500, was eventually paid by his office manager from her personal bank account and subsequently reimbursed from funds raised from donors in an account named Fylde Westminster Group, the newspaper says.

A source close to Mr Menzies told the paper he decided to pay them because he was scared of what would happen otherwise, but did not have the funds to transfer the money from his own savings.

There are other occasions where Mr Menzies allegedly used money from the campaign fund to cover medical expenses totalling £14,000. None of it was repaid, according to The Times.

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In a statement to the paper, Mr Menzies 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.”

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “The Conservative Party is investigating allegations made regarding a Member of Parliament. This process is rightfully confidential.

“The party takes all allegations seriously and will always investigate any matters put to them.”

A spokeswoman for Chief Whip Simon Hart said Mr Menzies had “agreed to relinquish the Conservative whip, pending the outcome of an investigation”, meaning he will now sit as an Independent MP.

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