Conservatives say SNP attempts to drag Tory MPs into boozy Gibraltar Remembrance flight row are ‘desperate attempt by those involved to deflect attention away from their behaviour’ after Nicola Sturgeon claimed allegations of drunkenness were ‘false’
- Bury South’s Christian Wakeford and another Conservative on trip were accused of carousing into early hours
- It follows three opposition MPs being accused of drinking heavily before flight for Remembrance Day events
- SNP’s David Linden and Drew Hendry have hit back at claims they were ‘rude’ and ‘lairy’ with airport staff
- Labour’s Charlotte Nichols allegedly needed a wheelchair to disembark flight, but has blamed medication
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Conservatives have branded SNP attempts to drag Tory MPs into a political spat over drunken antics on an official trip to Gibraltar a ‘desperate attempt by those involved to deflect attention away from their behaviour’.
Bury South’s Christian Wakeford and another Conservative on the trip were accused of carousing into the early hours on a visit to UK armed forces in the Mediterranean enclave.
The claims came after three opposition MPs were accused of drinking heavily before arriving in the British Overseas Territory with the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme – with one apparently having to be taken out of the airport in a wheelchair.
The SNP’s David Linden and Drew Hendry and Labour’s Charlotte Nichols were slated for showing a ‘lack of respect’ by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace after the ‘drunken’ display.
But Ms Nichols, who said she had fewer than five drinks, blamed her medication after she was said to be too incapacitated to attend the welcome party on arrival on the British Overseas Territory. She has since returned home two days early.
And the Scottish nationalist pair accused ministers of a ‘bizarre smear campaign’ and ‘shameless attempt to divert attention from the Tory corruption scandal’.
Meanwhile, a Tory source tonight said: ‘This is quite clearly a desperate attempt by those involved in the flight incident to deflect attention away from their behaviour.’
It follows fresh accusations being laid against Mr Wakeford, with a source telling the Manchester Evening News: ‘People are staggered by the hypocrisy of Ben Wallace and his ill-advised attempts to drag the armed forces into political game playing.
‘It was a serious error of judgement on his behalf, which has spectacularly backfired, given two Conservative MPs were out on the lash in Gibraltar until the early hours.
Bury South’s Christian Wakeford and another Conservative on the trip were accused of carousing into the early hours on a visit to UK armed forces in the Mediterranean enclave
SNP’s David Linden and Drew Hendry (pictured circled left and right respectively) have hit back at claims they were ‘rude’ and ‘lairy’ with airport staff
Labour’s Charlotte Nichols (pictured during the reopening of pubs this year) required the use of a wheelchair after drinking on a flight to Gibraltar, it has been claimed
The row erupted with claims that the SNP/Labour trio were ‘quite clearly drunk’ when they boarded their flight, and continued drinking on the plane.
Witnesses were reported to have described the two SNP MPs as ‘lairy’ and ‘rude’ with airport officials and needing military staff to calm them down.
Ms Nichols required a wheelchair to make her way from the baggage claim to a military minibus, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Mr Wallace said the trio’s conduct risked ‘undermining respect for Parliament’.
But Warrington North MP Ms Nichols, who is also the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pubs, said she had been affected by medication.
‘Everyone had had a few drinks on the flight,’ she said in a statement to The Sun. ‘The issue for me is the medication I am taking. That affected my tolerance. I had the same amount to drink as the others. I do not know how many drinks I had — I wasn’t counting. It was less than five.’
Both Mr Hendry and Mr Linden hit back at the claims about their behaviour, branding it a ‘bizarre Tory smear campaign’
The SNP’s David Linden (left) and Drew Hendry (right) were accused of showing a ‘lack of respect’ for the Armed Forces
The trio of MPs received a dressing down from Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured) after drinking ‘heavily’ en route to an official visit to troops in Gibraltar
The three were among 14 MPs travelling to see the military in Gibraltar as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme.
The flight also included Ministry of Defence staff and members of the public.
James Gray, a Tory MP and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces, told The Times: ‘These three, as I understand it, were in a British Airways lounge in Heathrow and made full use of the facilities.’
He said that by the time they got to the airport the three MPs were ‘pretty well-oiled’.
The two SNP men were reportedly ‘lairy’ and ‘rude’ when their coronavirus passes did not work at the airport gates, and it is claimed that military staff needed to intervene to calm them down.
It is claimed MoD bosses received reports of the MPs’ conduct from military escorts on board the flight.
However, posting a picture with troops in Gibraltar, Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP Mr Hendry said on social media: ‘It’s deeply disappointing that Tory MPs have made false claims in a shameless attempt to divert attention from the Tory corruption scandal engulfing Westminster.
‘That is a matter for their conscience. I’ll focus on doing my job and respecting our troops as we mark Armistice Day.’
Glasgow East MP Mr Linden tweeted: ‘Incredibly disappointed by what appears to be a bizarre Tory smear campaign in the media tonight but I’ll leave the politics to others.’
An SNP spokesman repeated that the suggestions of impropriety were ‘false’, adding: ‘Drew Hendry MP and David Linden MP were honoured to be invited to this important event and attended all engagements, including the welcome meeting and dinner shortly after landing.
‘Instead of trying to divert attention from the Tory corruption scandal engulfing Westminster, Ben Wallace should be apologising for his role in it, including voting to get Owen Paterson off the hook.’
James Gray, a Tory MP and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces, told The Times: ‘These three, as I understand it, were in a British Airways lounge in Heathrow and made full use of the facilities’
Speaking to journalists at the Cop26 summit, Nicola Sturgeon also waded into the row.
‘I think there have been allegations made against two of my MPs that they say are completely false and unfounded, and some may say is an attempt by Conservatives to distract attention from their own travails,’ she said.
‘I know Drew and David well, they say these allegations are unfounded and that is something I’ve got confidence in.’
She said she had not spoken directly to the MPs, adding: ‘The allegations are false, Drew and David have made that clear.
‘I think the question is perhaps for Conservatives why they are choosing to make allegations like this on Remembrance Day, given the nature of what Drew and David have been doing.
‘I know both Drew and David extremely well and if they say these allegations are false I have confidence in that.’
Mr Gray said if the three had been at an officers’ mess dinner he would have thrown them off the scheme but he decided to have strong words with them instead.
A retired lieutenant colonel and a serving major were on the flight as ‘minders’ and saw the three MPs drinking, it has been claimed.
Mr Wallace will now write to the leaders of Labour and the SNP to complain. The Defence Secretary said: ‘This type of behaviour shows a lack of respect for the enduring work of our Armed Forces.
‘The Armed Forces scheme is an opportunity for both Parliamentarians and the military to understand each other.
This behaviour puts military personnel in a difficult position and risks undermining respect for Parliament.’
The MPs were visiting troops in Gibraltar (pictured) as part of Remembrance Day
A source claimed to The Daily Telegraph that the MPs were ‘quite clearly drunk when they were checking in and going through the process of boarding’, then ‘drank heavily on the plane’.
They claimed Ms Nichols became ‘incapacitated through drink on the flight across to Gibraltar to the point where she had to be moved to the transport by wheelchair’. She was then taken to a hotel ‘for her own safety’, it was claimed.
The Times reported that the Labour MP was returning to the UK two days early after speaking to party whips.
The two SNP MPs attended the welcome meeting and have made every appointment in Gibraltar.
All three said they were not drunk on the plane but did not deny they had been drinking.
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