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UK lawmaker won't run again after allegations of late night call for funds to pay off 'bad people'

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UK lawmaker won't run again after allegations of late night call for funds to pay off 'bad people'
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UK lawmaker won't run again after allegations of late night call for funds to pay off 'bad people'

2024-04-22 01:06 Last Updated At:01:10

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.

FILE - Undated handout photo issued by UK Parliament of Conservative MP Mark Menzies. Menzies, A British lawmaker who allegedly used campaign funds to pay off people who were holding him hostage said on Sunday April 21, 2024 that he wouldn't seek reelection after the governing Conservative Party found his behavior fell below the standard expected of members of Parliament. (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament via AP, File)

FILE - Undated handout photo issued by UK Parliament of Conservative MP Mark Menzies. Menzies, A British lawmaker who allegedly used campaign funds to pay off people who were holding him hostage said on Sunday April 21, 2024 that he wouldn't seek reelection after the governing Conservative Party found his behavior fell below the standard expected of members of Parliament. (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament via AP, File)

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Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who skewered fast food industry, dies at 53

2024-05-24 23:57 Last Updated At:05-25 00:00

NEW YORK (AP) — Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, an Oscar nominee whose most famous works skewered America's food industry and who notably ate only at McDonald’s for a month to illustrate the dangers of a fast-food diet, has died. He was 53.

Spurlock died Thursday in New York from complications of cancer, according to a statement issued Friday by his family.

“It was a sad day, as we said goodbye to my brother Morgan,” Craig Spurlock, who worked with him on several projects, said in the statement. “Morgan gave so much through his art, ideas, and generosity. The world has lost a true creative genius and a special man. I am so proud to have worked together with him.”

Spurlock made a splash in 2004 with his groundbreaking film “Super Size Me,” which was nominated for an Academy Award. The film chronicled the detrimental physical and psychological effects of Spurlock eating only McDonald’s food for 30 days. He gained about 25 pounds, saw a spike in his cholesterol and lost his sex drive.

“Everything’s bigger in America,” he said in the film. “We’ve got the biggest cars, the biggest houses, the biggest companies, the biggest food, and finally: the biggest people.”

In one scene, Spurlock showed kids a photo of George Washington and none recognized the Founding Father. But they all instantly knew the mascots for Wendy’s and McDonald’s.

The film grossed more than $22 million on a $65,000 budget and preceded the release of Eric Schlosser’s influential “Fast Food Nation,” which accused the industry of being bad for the environment and rife with labor issues.

Spurlock returned in 2017 with “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!” — a sober look at an industry that processes 9 billion animals a year in America. He focused on two issues: chicken farmers stuck in a peculiar financial system and the attempt by fast-food chains to deceive customers into thinking they’re eating healthier.

“We’re at an amazing moment in history from a consumer standpoint where consumers are starting to have more and more power,” he told The Associated Press in 2019. “It’s not about return for the shareholders. It’s about return for the consumers.”

Spurlock was a gonzo-like filmmaker who leaned into the bizarre and ridiculous. His stylistic touches included zippy graphics and amusing music, blending a Michael Moore-ish camera-in-your-face style with his own sense of humor and pathos.

“I wanted to be able to lean into the serious moments. I wanted to be able to breathe in the moments of levity. We want to give you permission to laugh in the places where it’s really hard to laugh,” he told the AP.

After he exposed the fast-food and chicken industries, there was an explosion in restaurants stressing freshness, artisanal methods, farm-to-table goodness and ethically sourced ingredients. But nutritionally not much had changed.

“There has been this massive shift and people say to me, ‘So has the food gotten healthier?’ And I say, ‘Well, the marketing sure has,’” he said.

Not all his work dealt with food. Spurlock made documentaries about the boy band One Direction and the geeks and fanboys at Comic-Con. One of his films looked at life behind bars at the Henrico County Jail in Virginia.

With 2008's “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?” Spurlock went on a global search to find the al-Qaida leader, who was killed in 2011. In “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” Spurlock tackled questions of product placement, marketing and advertising.

“Being aware is half the battle, I think. Literally knowing all the time when you’re being marketed to is a great thing,” Spurlock told AP at the time. “A lot of people don’t realize it. They can’t see the forest for the trees."

“Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!” was to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017 but it was shelved at the height of the #MeToo movement when Spurlock came forward to detail his own history of sexual misconduct.

He confessed that he had been accused of rape while in college and had settled a sexual harassment case with a female assistant. He also admitted to cheating on numerous partners. “I am part of the problem,” he wrote.

“For me, there was a moment of kind of realization — as somebody who is a truth-teller and somebody who has made it a point of trying to do what’s right — of recognizing that I could do better in my own life. We should be able to admit we were wrong,” he told the AP.

Spurlock grew up in Beckley, West Virginia. His mother was an English teacher who he remembered would correct his work with a red pen. He graduated with a BFA in film from New York University in 1993.

He is survived by two sons — Laken and Kallen; his mother Phyllis Spurlock; father Ben; brothers Craig and Barry; and former spouses Alexandra Jamieson and Sara Bernstein, the mothers of his children.

Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

FILE - Morgan Spurlock of the CNN series "Inside Man" poses at the CNN Worldwide All-Star Party, on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif. Spurlock, an Oscar-nominee who made food and American diets his life’s work, famously eating only at McDonald’s for a month to illustrate the dangers of a fast-food diet, has died. He was 53. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

FILE - Morgan Spurlock of the CNN series "Inside Man" poses at the CNN Worldwide All-Star Party, on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif. Spurlock, an Oscar-nominee who made food and American diets his life’s work, famously eating only at McDonald’s for a month to illustrate the dangers of a fast-food diet, has died. He was 53. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

FILE - Director Morgan Spurlock from the film "Focus Forward" poses for a portrait during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival at the Fender Music Lodge on Jan. 21, 2013 in Park City, Utah. Spurlock, an Oscar-nominee who made food and American diets his life’s work, famously eating only at McDonald’s for a month to illustrate the dangers of a fast-food diet, has died. He was 53. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP, File)

FILE - Director Morgan Spurlock from the film "Focus Forward" poses for a portrait during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival at the Fender Music Lodge on Jan. 21, 2013 in Park City, Utah. Spurlock, an Oscar-nominee who made food and American diets his life’s work, famously eating only at McDonald’s for a month to illustrate the dangers of a fast-food diet, has died. He was 53. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP, File)

FILE - Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock arrives at the premiere of "Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" in Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 20, 2011. Spurlock, an Oscar-nominee who made food and American diets his life’s work, famously eating only at McDonald’s for a month to illustrate the dangers of a fast-food diet, has died. He was 53. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

FILE - Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock arrives at the premiere of "Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" in Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 20, 2011. Spurlock, an Oscar-nominee who made food and American diets his life’s work, famously eating only at McDonald’s for a month to illustrate the dangers of a fast-food diet, has died. He was 53. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

FILE - Morgan Spurlock poses at the Los Angeles premiere of his film "Super Size Me," Thursday night, April 22, 2004, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. Spurlock, an Oscar-nominee who made food and American diets his life’s work, famously eating only at McDonald’s for a month to illustrate the dangers of a fast-food diet, has died. He was 53. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

FILE - Morgan Spurlock poses at the Los Angeles premiere of his film "Super Size Me," Thursday night, April 22, 2004, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. Spurlock, an Oscar-nominee who made food and American diets his life’s work, famously eating only at McDonald’s for a month to illustrate the dangers of a fast-food diet, has died. He was 53. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

FILE - Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock participate in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss the film, "Go North", at AOL Studios on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, in New York. Spurlock, an Oscar-nominee who made food and American diets his life’s work, famously eating only at McDonald’s for a month to illustrate the dangers of a fast-food diet, has died. He was 53. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

FILE - Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock participate in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss the film, "Go North", at AOL Studios on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, in New York. Spurlock, an Oscar-nominee who made food and American diets his life’s work, famously eating only at McDonald’s for a month to illustrate the dangers of a fast-food diet, has died. He was 53. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

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