Police look at claims that Tory MP called aide at 3am to ask for £5,000 to pay ‘bad people’

Mark Menzies disputes the allegations, but the Conservative Party is investigating
Mark Menzies disputes the allegations, but the Conservative Party is investigating - CHRIS MCANDREW/UKPARLIAMENT/PA

Police are set to examine claims that a Tory MP misused campaign funds and demanded cash from a party aide to pay a ransom.

Mark Menzies, the MP for Fylde, is alleged to have used £14,000 that had been given by donors for campaigning activities to fund his private medical expenses.

He was also said to have phoned Katie Fieldhouse, his 78-year-old former campaign manager, at 3.15am last December to ask for money to pay “bad people” who had locked him up, claiming he needed £5,000 – which later rose to £6,500 – as a matter of “life and death”.

Mr Menzies has lost the Conservative whip and the party is looking into the accusations against him.

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “We are aware of reports in the media relating to a serving Member of Parliament.

“No complaint has been made to the police at this stage. We will make contact with those impacted in due course to see whether they wish to make a complaint.”

Earlier on Thursday, Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, told reporters: “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.”

Mr Menzies, a former climate change minister who has represented his Lancashire constituency since 2010, has also been suspended from his unpaid role as a Government trade envoy to Colombia.

He said in a statement: “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.”

‘Deeply distressing’

Katie Fieldhouse, a former Lady Mayoress of Mr Menzies’s constituency and his former campaign manager, identified herself as the 78-year-old party aide on Thursday.

She told MailOnline she was “deeply distressed” by what had happened, adding: “I’m a Christian woman with morals and principles and I think that says everything.

“I was the one that reported his behaviour. I gave a full account to the Chief Whip when I reported it, that was on January 3. I didn’t make a complaint, I reported my concerns.”

A source close to Mr Menzies told The Times he met a man on an online dating website and went to his flat before then going with another man to a second address and continuing drinking.

The source added it was falsely claimed he was sick at one point and several people at the address demanded £5,000 they asserted was to cover the cost of cleaning and other expenses.

It came as Anneliese Dodds, the Labour chairman, wrote to Richard Holden, her Conservative counterpart, raising questions over the Tories’ handling of the “deeply troubling allegations”.

Responding to reports in The Times that the party had been aware of the claims since January, Ms Dodds wrote: “A long-serving Tory worker involved in this disturbing incident says they believe the Conservative Party wants to ‘brush it under the carpet’. I trust you will now take all steps to show this is not the case.”

Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, wrote to Sir Laurie Magnus, the independent adviser on ministers’ interests, urging him to investigate whether Tory Chief Whip Simon Hart had broken the Ministerial Code in his handling of the scandal.

“[The Times] says the case was subsequently transferred from the Whips’ Office to Conservative Campaign Headquarters,” Ms Cooper said.

“Given that this case reportedly involves allegations against a sitting MP in relation to parliamentary staff, it seems completely inappropriate for the Conservative Chief Whip to pass it off to the party’s campaign headquarters, rather than raising it with the relevant parliamentary authorities.”

Ms Cooper went on to accuse Mr Hart of “failing to take any action or alert the appropriate authorities, knowingly leaving in place an MP who was clearly vulnerable to blackmail and coercion”.

Further tests for Sunak

If Mr Menzies were to find himself at the centre of a parliamentary investigation, it could raise the prospect of a further by-election test for Rishi Sunak.

On Wednesday, it was reported by The Times that Tory activists in Fylde, which has a majority of just under 17,000, had been advised not to hand out leaflets with Mr Menzies’s face on.

Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, insisted sleaze allegations were not “specific to one particular political party” when asked about the row, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In every walk of life, there will be people who go off the tracks, as it were.”

Mr Menzies is the second Tory MP to surrender the whip in as many weeks after William Wragg, who represents Hazel Grove, quit the party having admitted to handing over colleagues’ phone numbers in the Westminster honeytrap scandal.

A spokesman for Mr Hart said Mr Menzies had “agreed to relinquish the Conservative whip, pending the outcome of an investigation”.

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