LONDON (AP) — A British lawmaker who allegedly used campaign funds to pay off people who were holding him hostage said Sunday that he wouldn’t seek reelection after the governing Conservative Party found his behavior fell below the standard expected of members of Parliament.

Mark Menzies’ downfall is the latest in a series of scandals to hit the Conservatives, undermining support for a party that has been in power for the past 14 years as it prepares for a general election later this year.

The Times of London recently reported that Menzies called a 78-year-old aide at 3 a.m. in December asking for funds to pay off “bad people” who had locked him in an apartment and were demanding money for his release. Menzies’ office manager ultimately paid 6,500 pounds ($8,100) from her personal bank account, which was reimbursed from funds donated by political backers, the newspaper said.

Menzies, who denies the allegations, has represented the seat of Fylde in northwest England since 2010.

“Due to the pressures on myself and my elderly mother, I have decided to resign from the Conservative Party and will not stand at the forthcoming general election,” he said. “This has been a very difficult week for me, and I request that my family’s privacy is respected.”

Menzies’ announcement came after the Conservatives announced the findings of an internal investigation into the matter.

The inquiry concluded that the payment had been authorized by two members of a local donors group that sits outside the Conservative Party, and therefore Menzies hadn’t misused party funds.

“However, we do believe that there has been a pattern of behavior 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,” the party said.

The opposition Labour Party has called for a police investigation into the matter. The Conservatives said they would share information with police if they decide to investigate.

The Conservatives have been in power since 2010, but they are trailing in opinion polls amid crumbling public services, high prices that are squeezing consumers and the corrosive effect of ethics scandals.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who led the party to a landslide victory in 2019, resigned from the House of Commons after an investigation found that he deliberately misled Parliament about parties held at his Downing Street offices during lockdowns imposed to control the spread of COVID-19.

Other scandals include a lawmaker who was caught looking at porn in the House of Commons, another who reportedly offered to lobby on behalf of gambling firms and another alleged to have drunkenly groped strangers at a private club in London.

But ethical questions are also being asked of opposition politicians as the country prepares for an election that must be called by the end of this year.

Conservatives accuse Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, of dodging taxes on the sale of a house sale years ago by falsely claiming it was her primary residence. Police say they are investigating. Rayner denies wrongdoing and hasn’t been suspended by her party.

Brought to you by