Tory MP denies threat to voters: Vote Tory in Local Elections or your area might not get government funding

LONDON (Bywire News)- A Tory MP has denied accusations of ‘blackmailing voters’ after an official Conservative Party election leaflet used his name to tell local constituents that if they did not elect a Tory Council in the upcoming Local Elections, their area might not get government funding.

In an official Tory leaflet to support a Local Election candidate in Southend, the Conservative MP for Southend West, David Amess's name was used to tell voters that “unless we have a strong Conservative Council” the government would be reluctant to “go that extra mile” for their area.

The stark threat to voters - which was included at the bottom of a leaflet supporting the Tory incumbent in Southend’s Eastwood Ward, Chris Walker - read:

“Unless we have a strong Conservative Council, my ability to fight for Southend is hampered as Government Ministers are reluctant to go that extra mile for an opposition controlled Local Council. I urge you to vote for Chris Walker in the Local Elections, as you voted for me, so he can continue to work with me and support the residents of Southend.”

A tweet containing the comments, posted by James Baker, quickly went viral - with the Twitter user describing them as “outrageous”, and adding “Conservative MP urging voters to vote Conservative as Ministers won’t help a Council controlled by an opposition party. This is not how Government ought to function.”

Mr Baker also included multiple photos of the original leaflet, complete with official imprint on the front and back covers, to prove its authenticity.

Commenting on Baker’s post, numerous social media users said that the leaflet was an attempt to ‘blackmail’ Southend voters:

Many social media users also tagged the Electoral Commission in Baker’s post in an attempt to report the comments. However, the government agency responded to a number of them by saying that campaign materials were out of its jurisdiction:

“Hello, thanks for your message. We regulate party and campaigner spending at elections but we don’t regulate the content of campaign material. If you have a concern or complaint about campaign material, you should contact the political party or candidate directly.”

In response to a request for comment from Left Foot Forward, Mr Amess's office flatly denied that he had authorised the quote for the leaflet, saying:

"Sir David has just been informed of [this]...he is shocked & horrified. The quote is absolutely not from him and the person who made up the quote never spoke to Sir David about it or asked his permission...[It] does not reflect his views".

Adding: "It is absolutely not the case that Ministers do not work with opposition councils - quite the reverse. Sir David has a very good relationship with the [Labour] Leader of Southend Council, and if he ever brings an issue to his attention, he deals with it and will continue to do so."

Mr Amess posted a tweet of himself campaigning alongside Mr Walker, the candidate involved in the leaflet, just less than two weeks ago.

In March, analysis conducted by the Financial Times found that Boris Johnson’s government were indeed prioritising Tory-held areas, whilst ignoring far more deprived areas, for investment from their so-called ‘Levelling-Up Fund’.

(Reporting and writing by Tom D. Rogers, editing by Jessica Miller and Michael O'Sullivan)

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