Tory MP Mark Menzies loses whip over alleged misuse of funds

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A UK Conservative MP has been suspended from the parliamentary party pending an investigation into allegations that he misused campaign funds.

Mark Menzies, MP for Fylde and a government trade envoy, has been accused of using thousands of pounds given by donors for medical bills and other unusual personal expenses, according to The Times newspaper. He has disputed the claims.

Last December Menzies allegedly made a 3.15am call to a 78-year-old party volunteer demanding £5,000 of party funds to secure his release after claiming he had been locked up by “bad people” and that it was “a matter of life and death”, the newspaper said.

The Times also reported claims that a second aide, who was Menzies’ long-serving constituency office manager, cashed in her Isa the following morning to supply the requested sum — which had risen to £6,500 — and was subsequently reimbursed with money donated by local supporters.

A Conservative spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday night that the party was investigating the allegations against Menzies and took them seriously, adding that the process was “rightfully confidential”.

The MP has “agreed to relinquish the Conservative whip, pending the outcome of an investigation”, according to the spokesperson of chief whip Simon Hart, meaning he will sit as an independent.

Menzies said in a statement to The Times: “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 episode is the latest scandal to see Prime Minister Rishi Sunak lose an MP from the Tory benches. Earlier this month William Wragg voluntarily gave up the party whip over his involvement in a Westminster honeytrap.

The Conservative party has lost 10 seats in by-elections since the last general election in 2019. Another is taking place on May 2 following the resignation of former Tory MP Scott Benton, who was caught in a journalist sting offering to do paid lobbying work for a fictitious gambling company.

Menzies has been MP for his Lancashire seat since 2010, and the 52-year-old is also the prime minister’s trade envoy to Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina.

In 2014 he resigned as a ministerial aide following allegations reportedly made by a Brazilian male escort.

The Times reported that £14,000 given by donors for local Tory party campaign activities had been transferred to Menzies’ personal bank account and used for his private medical expenses.

The early morning phone call to the volunteer last December occurred after Menzies visited the flat of a man he had met on an online dating website, then visited the address of a second man where he was sick after consuming alcohol, it was reported.

Menzies was ordered to provide £5,000 for cleaning and other expenses and decided to comply with the request out of fear, but did not have the funds to pay himself, according to a source close to him quoted by The Times.

Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, responded to claims in The Times that the Tory party had been aware of the allegations for more than three months before this week without taking action as “frankly appalling”.

She said: “When our national security faces threats on many fronts, it is deeply concerning that some MPs are so open to traps, threats and manipulations.”

The Financial Times has attempted to reach Menzies for comment.

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