A cabinet minister has attempted to rubbish an MP's claim that he was told a new school would be blocked in his constituency if he defied Boris Johnson, saying he wants to "discredit" the government.

The incendiary allegation from Christian Wakeford – who defected from the Conservatives to Labour – came after a senior Tory accused government whips of "blackmail" and said the police should be called in.

But Kwasi Kwarteng said he did not believe the claims of threats and intimidation – and turned on Mr Wakeford, calling him a "turncoat".

Mr Wakeford is believed to have been threatened that the new school would not be built in his Bury South seat if voted with Labour in favour of free school meals, in October 2020.

"i was threatened that i would not get a school for radcliffe if i did not vote in one particular way."

he said, on Thursday.

"This is a town that's not had a high school for the best part of 10 years, and how would you feel when holding back the regeneration of a town for a vote?

"it didn't sit comfortably and that was when i was really starting to question my place at that time."

But he added : "I 've been an MP for 12 years now, and I ’ ve never heard of the kind of allegations that are being made.

"I find it strange because the whip's office doesn ’ t actually have the power over spending in that way."

Another MP opposing Johnson denied that letters of no confidence had been withdrawn after Wakeford defected to Labour.

A No 10 spokesperson said : "We are not aware of any evidence to support what are clearly serious allegations.

If there is any evidence to support these claims we would look at it very carefully."

Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader, said the alleged threats to withdraw investment to force support for Johnson were "disgusting".

He's acting more like a mafia boss than a prime minister. ” Wragg was one of the first Conservative MPs to call publicly for Johnson to go because of allegations about lockdown-breaching Downing Street parties, saying the prime minister's position had become untenable.

For Johnson to face a confidence vote among his MPs, 54 of them – 15 % of the total – would need to submit letters seeking this to the 1922 Committee, which represents backbenchers.

Wakeford, introducing a speech by Rachel Reeves in Bury the day after his defection, said it was "a great honour, if not a surprise, to be here today".

Others I 've spoken to said they felt especially sickened by the handshakes.

Yet as a member of Bury South's Jewish community, the sense of abandonment is especially painful.

Even Ivan Lewis, the former Labour minister, who had represented the seat since 1997 and who stood as an independent in 201, urged voters to support Wakeford.

It was, he repeatedly told the Jewish community, "the best way to stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister".

And so, like many, I offered the Tory's prospective parliamentary candidate my support at the ballot box.

It makes his willingness to cross the floor even more unpalatable.

( No surprise that grassroots hard Left figures in the party are now lashing out at the Bury South MP's recent voting record and questioning why he is being allowed in by Sir Keir Starmer. )

Of course Wakeford's defection isn ’ t just a stinging act of disloyalty for his Jewish constituents.

We didn't vote Tory to get Labour.

And the constituency ’ s Jewish community, whose synagogues and Jewish schools are protected by security guards and CCTV cameras, didn ’ t vote in a man whose new party still has to prove that we are not the enemy.

But after months of agonising, the final break often brings with it a giddy feeling of relief.

Perhaps he was worrying about his former colleagues scrolling furiously through their phones for old text messages with which to embarrass him.

They ’ re going to have to take at least part of his advice, too.

The last thing they need to see is a Labour party recoiling in disgust at the very idea that such people might be attracted to them.

For that fat Labour poll lead hides a large pool of formerly Conservative voters who have shifted only as far as the "don't know" column, where they ’ re waiting to see what happens next.

Obviously there are painful conversations to come, on issues that threaten to split the Labour party all over again.

But right now a government waiting for Sue Gray to put it out of its misery is in no fit state to set the agenda and Labour has a priceless chance to show its concerns are the country ’ s.

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