Mark Menzies stands down as MP after claims he had been locked up by ‘bad people’

The MP at the centre of the latest sleaze scandal to rock Rishi Sunak’s party has announced he will stand down at the next election.

Mark Menzies, 52 , allegedly rang a 78-year-old aide in the middle of the night to tell her he had been locked up by “bad people” demanding money.

He was also accused of misusing political donations after reportedly spending thousands of pounds given by Tory party donors on medical expenses.

The Conservatives suspended Mr Menzies after the claims broke earlier this week.

But the party was accused of being slow to act after a whistleblower revealed she reported the allegations to the party months ago.

In a statement, the Tories said they had now completed the investigation and “cannot conclude” there had been a misuse of party funds.

However, this appeared to be because the money was in a fund that “sits outside the remit” of the party and its local association.

But the probe did find “a pattern of behaviour that falls below the standards expected of MPs and individuals looking after donations to local campaign funds which lie outside the direct jurisdiction of the Conservative party”, a Tory spokesperson said.

In response the party is to set up a whistleblowing helpline and retrain volunteers “across the party on how to manage these accounts”.

The party also said it would review whether the allegations breached the Nolan principles of public life and would “share any information with the police if they believe it would be helpful”.

Lancashire Police have said they are reviewing the “available information” in the case.

According to The Times, £14,000 given by donors for use on Tory campaign activities was transferred to Mr Menzies’ personal bank accounts and used for private medical expenses.

The MP is also alleged to have telephoned his elderly former campaign manager at 3.15am one morning in December last year, and claimed he was locked in a flat and needed £5,000 as a matter of “life and death”.

The sum, which later rose to £6,500, was eventually paid from his office manager’s personal bank account.

The money was later reimbursed using funds that had been raised by donors for campaigning purposes and were held in an account with the name Fylde Westminster Group, it is alleged. It is this body that the party said sits “outside of its remit”.

According to a source close to Mr Menzies, before the December phone call he had met a man on an online dating website and went to his flat, before later going with another man to a second address where he continued to drink alcohol. After he was one point sick, several people at that address demanded £5,000, which they said was for cleaning and other expenses.

The source said that Mr Menzies had decided to pay the money because he was scared of what would happen if he did not. He did not have the funds to transfer the cash from his own savings, however.

Separately, 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, according to The Times. The allegations include that Mr Menzies received a further £7,000 from the account in November.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour's party chair, said that “serious questions” remained for Mr Sunak and the Conservative Party.

“The fact that Conservatives have not even approached the whistleblowers in the case, weeks after saying they were going to, despite now saying the investigation has been completed, says everything about how seriously they are dealing with these allegations.”

She called on the party to explain “what action they have taken to deal with these shocking allegations, And Rishi Sunak needs to explain how he will ever deliver on his promise of professionalism, integrity and accountability and drag his party out of the morass of constant sleaze."

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper said:“This stinks of a cover-up. The Conservative Party still has questions to answer about why the Chief Whip did not refer this to the parliamentary authorities when he was first made aware.

“It is also incredibly concerning that Sunak allowed an MP who he must have known was susceptible to blackmail, to stay in place for so long.

“The Conservative Party now needs to hand over everything relating to this matter to the police for them to investigate.”

In a statement, Mr Menzies said he had decided to resign from the Conservative Party and would not stand at the election “due to the pressures on myself and my elderly mother”.

He added: “This has been a very difficult week for me and I request that my family’s privacy is respected.”

The Ayrshire-born Tory MP for Fylde, Lancashire will continue to sit as an MP on his full salary until the election.

Mr Menzies won his seat in 2010 after unsuccessfully standing for seats in Glasgow and Yorkshire. He had been one of David Cameron’s so-called “A-List” of top tier parliamentary candidates.

But in 2014 he resigned as a ministerial aide to then international development minister Alan Duncan after a report he had paid a Brazilian male escort for sex.

In an earlier 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.”