Christian Wakeford has accused former education secretary Gavin Williamson of threatening to withdraw funding for a school if he voted for a Labour measure criticising the government over the free school meals debacle.
After crossing the floor to join Sir Keir Starmer’s opposition on Wednesday, the Bury South MP claimed that party whips told him he would lose funding for a new high school in his constituency if he did not vote with the government.
Wakeford subsequently identified Williamson, the former chief whip, in an interview with the Sunday Times.
Recalling the confrontation, he said Williamson pulled him out of the House of Commons dining room and told him: “It’s not very helpful to back an opposition [motion] against the department where you’re wanting an extremely large favour from said department, so do consider what you’re doing.”
Wakeford added: “I know the maxim is ‘once a whip, always a whip’, but yeah, that one was Gavin.”
The incident is said to have taken place in October 2020, when MPs were planning to vote on a plan to extend free school meals into the school holidays after campaigning by footballer Marcus Rashford.
After the conversation, Wakeford abstained on the vote and, the following February, the Department for Education approved plans for a new school in his constituency.
In response, Williamson said he did not remember such a conversation taking place.
“I don’t have any recollection of the conversation as described but what I do remember is working tirelessly with Christian and others in order to be able to deliver this school, which I did,” he said.
“Such major investment decisions are made after close analysis of the benefits that the investment will bring and certainly not something that can be decided in a brief conversation like the one described.”
The incendiary claim comes as William Wragg – the senior Tory MP who first raised concerns about the intimidatory tactics used by Boris Johnson’s whips – is set to meet police to discuss the issue.
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