Tory MP suspended after claims he used party funds to pay for matter of 'life and death' escape from 'bad people'

18 April 2024, 11:06 | Updated: 18 April 2024, 13:56

Mark Menzies (l) who has had the Conservative whip withdrawn in another headache for Rishi Sunak (r). Inset Cabinet Secretary Simon Hart. Picture: Getty
Mark Menzies (l) who has had the Conservative whip withdrawn in another headache for Rishi Sunak (r). Inset Cabinet Secretary Simon Hart. Picture: Getty. Picture: getty/alamy

By StephenRigley

The Tories are embroiled in a fresh sleaze row today after it emerged an MP has been stripped of the party whip over allegations he misused campaign funds.

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Mark Menzies is said to have made a 3am call to a 78-year-old party volunteer in December claiming to have been locked up by 'bad people'.

The MP for Fylde in Lancashire is accused of saying he needed £5,000 as a 'matter of life and death', with the sum later rising to £6,500, The Times reports.

A further £14,000 given by donors for use on Tory campaign activities was also allegedly transferred to Mr Menzies' personal bank accounts and used for private medical expenses.

Mr Menzies, who is one of Rishi Sunak's trade envoys, disputes the allegations but the Conservative party is investigating the claims.

Mr Menzies was suspended from his role as one of Rishi Sunak’s envoys following the allegations.

At a No 10 lobby briefing today the PM’s spokeperson said Menzies had been suspended from the unpaid, voluntary role aimed at boosting trade with Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina.

In a statement, 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."
In a statement, 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.". Picture: Alamy

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The Times says the Conservative Party was made aware of the allegations in January, when the former campaign manager reported what had happened to the chief whip, Simon Hart.

The allegations are the latest headache for Rishi Sunak who currently has eight MPs already sitting as independents following various allegations including of sexual misconduct.

And it is just weeks before the local elections.

Today Defence Secretary Grant Shapps defended the Conservatives after it was reported that the party failed to act for over three months over allegations.

He told LBC: “It’s quite right that a proper investigation takes place and that he doesn’t sit as a Conservative in the meantime.”

He added: "There are people I'm afraid in every walk of life who either won't do the right thing or sometimes are troubled individually, perhaps with mental health and other things which leads them to do things which they shouldn't have done."

According to a source close to Mr Menzies, the MP had met a man on an online dating website and gone to the man’s flat, before subsequently going with another man to a second address where he continued drinking. He was sick at one point and several people at the address demanded £5,000, claiming it was for cleaning up and other expenses.

The source said Mr Menzies, 52, 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.

Nick Ferrari questions Grant Shapps on Mark Menzies

There are other occasions where Mr Menzies is said to have used money from the campaign fund to cover his personal expenses.

In 2020 he allegedly sought £3,000 to cover medical bills, but he did not repay the money and instead asked for and received a further £4,000, The Times reported.

The newspaper said a source close to the MP disputed this account and said the former campaign manager had been the one who suggested Mr Menzies use funds from the business account to pay his personal medical expenses, but she is understood to deny this.

A further £7,000 was received by Mr Menzies from the account in November, it is alleged.

Mark Menzies
Mark Menzies. Picture: Getty

The MP was previously accused of getting a friend's dog drunk in 2017, paying for sex from a male escort in 2014 and drunkenly 'kicking chairs and poking people' at a Last Night of the Proms concert as recently as last August.

After the 2014 allegations, Menzies, then 42, resigned as a ministerial aide but insisted that some of the allegations were untrue and claimed he would be “setting the record straight in due course”

A spokeswoman for Chief Whip Simon Hart said: "Following a call with the Chief Whip, Mark Menzies has agreed to relinquish the Conservative whip, pending the outcome of an investigation."

In a statement to The Times, 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.”

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