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MP says Prime Minister and Evgeny Lebedev ‘tried to silence him’ after speaker complaint

An MP has alleged Boris Johnson and Evgeny Lebedev complained to the Speaker after his question about the Prime Minister attending a party at the peer’s Italian palazzo.

The Shadow Minister for Higher Education and Warwick and Leamington MP, Matt Western, says he fears the pair coordinated to ‘silence him’ and sought to police his language in Parliament.

He says he was summoned to the Speaker’s office the day after Prime Minister’s Questions on March 23.

In a letter sent to Boris Johnson today (August 24), Mr Western alleges the Speaker and House of Commons officials informed him they had received a written statement of complaint from Number 10 Downing Street, and another from Lord Lebedev the same morning.

In his question, Mr Western referred to allegations that the Prime Minister had attended the notoriously lavish parties hosted by Russian oligarch and media tycoon Lord Lebedev at his castle in Perugia.

The Labour MP described them as ‘bunga bunga’ parties, drawing parallels with the notorious sex gatherings held by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

In the exchange, Mr Western said: “A fantasy castle. Perhaps Snow White too.

“Certainly girls, girls, girls were promised at a party (which was) less Burlesque, more Berlusconi.”

Mr Western concluded: “Given that his many weaknesses could leave him open to blackmail, why does the Prime Minister think that MI6 may not entirely trust him?”

The head of MI6 Sir John Sawyers first raised alarm when the Prime Minister recommended his long-time friend for a peerage in 2020.

Lord Lededev’s father, Alexander, is a former KGB officer and a billionaire Russian oligarch with ties to Putin.

His newspaper empire includes The London Evening Standard and The Independent, ownership of which he now shares with his son.

In response to the question, Mr Johnson rebutted: “I’m afraid I simply failed to detect any crouton of substance in the minestrone of nonsense he’s just spoken.”

Less than a week later, Lord Lebedev Tweeted Mr Western saying: “Can I remind Matt Western that it’s not what ‘the former minister’ said.

“In the future he should either provide some evidence for this nonsense he speaks, or keep his mouth shut.”

During a hearing of the Commons liaison committee in July, the Prime Minister eventually admitted to meeting with Alexander at the party while he was still Foreign Secretary in April 2018 – without officials present.

The meeting took place only weeks after the nerve agent poisonings in Salisbury, thought to have been perpetrated by Russian operatives, and immediately after a confidential NATO meeting concerning Russia.

Mr Western told us: “I’m sure the public, like me, would be interested to know whether he and Lebedev coordinated to intimidate and silence me following my question?

“That’s why I’ve submitted a Freedom of Information request to establish whether there was communication between Number 10 and Lord Lebedev in the hours and days that followed Prime Minister’s Questions.

“The public also deserves to know the extent of Boris Johnson’s relationship with the Lebedevs, particularly Alexander – and when meetings between them, which could have threatened our national security, have taken place.”

Mr Johnson has always suggested it was a private, social event and he did not take ministerial papers with him nor discuss work.