Breaking News: Chris Pincher MP suspended

Tory MP Chris Pincher suspended by party over ‘drunken groping’ claims


A Tory MP accused of drunkenly groping two men has been suspended by the party.

Chris Pincher has had the Conservative whip withdrawn at Westminster over the claims, forcing him to sit as an independent without the support of the parliamentary group.

The 52-year-old resigned from his role as deputy chief whip and apologised after admitting he had drunk “far too much” and “embarrassed myself and other people” on a night out.

Mr Pincher “groped two men in front of others” at the Carlton Club in the St James’s area of central London, a government source told Sky News.

One of those groped is an MP, and the second one may also be a member of parliament, the source added.

Cabinet minister Simon Hart said any victims should raise complaints, telling Sky News that something had gone “terribly wrong” and that the allegations made him “very sad”.

In his government role, Mr Pincher had been responsible for party discipline and the smooth running of government business at Westminster.

At the last election, Mr Pincher was returned to his Tamworth seat with a majority of more than 19,000 and this could be vulnerable if he were to step down, coming after two recent bruising by-election defeats for the Tories.

One of those saw the Tories have a 24,000 majority wiped out by the Liberal Democrats in Honiton and Tiverton – a record reversal for the party.

Boris Johnson and Chris Pincher


“Surely sexual harassment is worse than Googling tractors?”

Politico London Newsletter

 Boris Johnson wakes up in London today probably wishing he could jump back on a plane as he grapples with the fallout from the resignation of his deputy chief whip in the Conservative Party’s fifth major sex pest scandal in three months.

SCOOP — PM under pressure: Playbook can reveal this morning that Johnson was made aware of allegations of inappropriate behavior by Chris Pincher before the last reshuffle, at the time when Pincher was in the frame as a potential chief whip.

More detail: Three sources, including one Tory MP who personally raised the issue, told Playbook that the PM was made aware of complaints about Pincher’s conduct but appointed him deputy chief whip in February anyway. No. 10 did not deny the story last night.

Hang on, what’s happened? Pincher quit as the government’s deputy chief whip just before 8 p.m. — in a cracking scoop by the Sun’s Noa Hoffman (less than a week into her new job with the paper) and Kate Ferguson — with a terse letter which began: “Dear prime minister, last night I drank far too much. I’ve embarrassed myself and other people which is the last thing I want to do and I apologize to those concerned.”

**A message from Blackstone: Rapid investment is needed in new housing across the UK. We’re investing in the housing needs of the future by backing companies like St. Modwen, one of the UK’s leading developers of homes, that put quality, sustainable housing at the heart of their business. Find out how.**

The allegation: Pincher allegedly groped two men on Wednesday night while drunk at the Carlton Club in St James’s, triggering several complaints by MPs to the whips’ office about his behavior — read the Sun story in full here. A witness who was present told Playbook that Pincher was “clearly trying to seduce several young men.” The Guardian reports — and Playbook has heard too — that Tory Whip Sarah Dines is one of the people who reported Pincher.

The question now: Why did the PM decided to appoint Pincher back in February as the No. 2 in command in the whips’ office — which is responsible for overseeing and disciplining MPs’ behavior — when Johnson had been made aware of concerns about Pincher’s own conduct?

No. 10 view: A No. 10 source said that allegations about Pincher had been conveyed to the PM’s chief of staff Steve Barclay, who flagged them to the Cabinet Office propriety and ethics team during the February reshuffle and refused to sign off the appointment until they were looked at. Pincher’s appointment was signed off only after PET gave it the green light, the No. 10 source claimed, something which delayed the reshuffle by hours (though it was reported at the time that the delay was partly down to Pincher resisting the deputy title when he had been expecting to get the top job).

Open secret: In this essential piece in May, POLITICO’s Esther Webber reported claims that a member of the government had a “minder” to ensure he left events without drinking too much and getting into trouble — and we can now reveal the MP concerned was Pincher. That obviously went well. He did not respond to a request for comment last night, and a senior party official said they were not aware of the claim.

What the Tories are saying: A Tory Party source told the Mail’s Jason Groves, among others: “The PM thinks he’s done the decent thing by resigning. There is no need for an investigation and no need to suspend the whip.” Playbook is told that the PM texted Pincher last night to accept his resignation and thank him for taking responsibility for his wrongdoing.

However: It doesn’t feel like that line will hold for long — Twitter is already flooded with incensed quotes from Tory MPs who think the position is untenable. A Tory source pointed out to Playbook: “If anyone makes a complaint against him, CCHQ would have to investigate (and given he’s admitted he did it) they’d have to suspend party membership. You can’t keep the whip if you’re not a member without it looking ridiculous.” And an influential female Tory MP said: “If it’s a sexual assault and he’s admitted it, he needs to lose the whip.”

Knives out: Another well-connected Tory MP said: “No. 10’s initial response — suggesting he’s done ‘the decent thing’ and allowing him to retain the whip — tells us that Boris Johnson doesn’t take allegations of sexual assault as seriously as the leader of a government should and is the latest demonstration of why he is unfit to be prime minister. The standards of behavior expected in an organization are set by the person who leads it.”

Needless to say: The two people allegedly groped by Pincher on Wednesday may well not be satisfied with the No. 10 response. Their identity was unclear amid conflicting reports last night — Sky’s Beth Rigby and the Mail’s Jason Groves hear that at least one is an MP, Insider’s Cat Neilan hears that at least one is not; according to the Guardian both are said to be staffers.  

Activist distress: It’s difficult to overstate the dismay among loyal Conservative Party activists and strategists — including some in government — about this state of affairs. A Tory source told Playbook: “Pincher had earned the nickname ‘arse pincher’ and his impropriety was known about. He was empowered nonetheless.” And a party member affected by the Imran Ahmad Khan case summed up the sentiment among younger Conservatives to Esther: “Feels a bit like Groundhog Day in the party right now.”

Incredibly: Pincher writes a monthly column “on drink” for the Critic.

What’s more: Pincher had to resign as a whip back in 2017, after being accused of drunkenly making a pass at former Olympic rower Alex Story. Story alleged at the time that Pincher attempted to untuck his shirt, massaged his neck and whispered: “You’ll go far in the Conservative Party.” Pincher referred himself to the police after the incident and was cleared of wrongdoing by a Conservative Party investigation. But the decision to reappoint him to a more senior role in the whips office after that whole scandal — let alone after having been warned about fresh concerns from MPs — is a questionable judgement call to say the least.

Of course there’s this: Pincher was instrumental in shoring up support for the PM last winter when the Partygate scandal was at its peak and was effectively rewarded with the deputy chief whip’s job, as the Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith points out.

Reminder: Neil Parish was suspended from the Tory whip after he referred himself to the standards commissioner over complaints he had been looking at porn on his phone in the Commons. He claimed he had chanced upon the offending page accidentally while looking up farming tools. As one Tory staffer quipped last night: “Surely sexual harassment is worse than Googling tractors?”

What does population growth mean in terms of growth in households and houses?

Household sizes have been gradually reducing over the years as the population ages and as families have fewer children.

From the 2011 census  figures for the South West  it is possible to estimate that about 33% (one third) of households comprise a single person, about 20% (a fifth) comprise families of just two and the remaining 47% comprise families of three or more

Currently it is  estimated that  across the UK there are 2.4 individuals per household.

For local planning purposes EDDC uses a lower average of 2.2 individuals per household.

Over the past eight years the average number of dwellings completed in East Devon is 918 per year. For the purposes of housing monitoring, generally, a dwelling is defined as being a separately Council Tax banded property. 

In East Devon, the ONS estimates that population size has increased by 13.8%, from around 132,500 in 2011 to 150,800 in 2021, an increase of 18,300. 

Assuming 2.2 individuals/household means that around 8,318 households must have been created in the ten year period, implying house building averaging around 830/year. This is close to the recorded dwelling completion rate and indicates that local household occupancy rate is below the national average, as you might expect for a retirement area.

During the development of the 2015 Local Plan it was estimated that only around 580 houses/year would be required to satisfy purely demographic growth trends. 

The Old Guard’s “build, build, build” policy was based on a high economic “jobs-led” growth scenario of around 3% that simply hasn’t materialised. It required a build rate of 900 houses/year minimum.

If this economic growth hasn’t materialised then it begs the question of who is occupying these properties? We know that, locally, housing demand is running ahead of need.

Has the excess development over demographic needs estimated by the ONS been taken up by homes for retirement, for second homes (estimated at 4% in 2018 and rising) or for housing to satisfy Exeter’s needs? 

Are there any clues in the changes in age profiles in East Devon?

Wilfred Johnson’s godmother given government salary via closed recruitment process

Ava Evans 

A close friend and godmother to the prime minister’s son was given a £350-a-day role at the Home Office without the position being first advertised, a freedom of information request has revealed.

Nimco Ali OBE was appointed to the advisory role in October 2020, where she worked around 2 days a month on the UK government’s strategy on tackling violence against women and girls.

While the role’s announcement stipulated she would feed into a potentially influential report, a source close to the Johnsons said that Ali had “hassled Carrie for a job” and that the role “was just a dressed up way for her to hang out with Priti.”

Information released by the Home Office shows it was a direct appointment, meaning the role was not advertised and was not offered to anyone other than Ali.

It also appears the role may have been specifically created for her, with no evidence available to prove the job had existed prior to her employment.

Ali is a prominent social campaigner who has long worked on publicising the horrors of female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice she was subjected to as a child.

She went on to form the Daughters of Eve organisation to campaign against FGM, and later became the CEO of The Five Foundation, a global partnership to end female genital FGM.

Notably, Ross Kempsell who was personally appointed by Boris Johnson to a senior comms role in CCHQ, worked as the foundation’s secretary.

Ali has a longstanding relationship with wife of the prime minister, Carrie Johnson.

A few months after the government advisory appointment had been announced, it is understood Ali stayed with the couple during the 2020 festive period at Downing Street, despite tough social distancing rules being in force throughout London.

At the time Downing Street insisted no coronavirus rules had been broken, and she is said to have stayed over the Christmas lockdown period as part of their childcare support bubble.

During the height of lockdown, Ali was seen out walking Wilfred with Carrie Johnson around London’s West End. 

Ali has also been a guest at the prime minister’s taxpayer funded, grace-and-favour-home, Chequers.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Nimco Ali has a strong track record of campaigning on violence against women and girls (VAWG) issues, raising awareness and educating people about Female Genital Mutilation.

“She brings a huge amount of experience and passion to this role, providing independent advice to help inform Government policy and challenge the status quo.

“She was appointed via a direct appointment to lead a short-term project, and her appointment was agreed by the Cabinet Office Public Appointments Policy Team.”

Nimco Ali did not respond to request for comment.

Chris Pincher ‘groping’ resignation shows Tories are ‘mired in sleaze’, says Angela Rayner

“Boris Johnson has serious questions to answer about why Chris Pincher was given this role in the first place and how he can remain a Conservative MP.”

[The Tamworth constituency has swung between Labour and the Conservatives since the boundaries were redrawn in 1976.]

Emily Atkinson

The resignation of the deputy chief whip shows the Conservatives are “mired in sleaze”, Angela Rayner has said.

Chris Pincher, who was appointed to the role last February to strengthen party discipline, resigned following a drunken incident in which he said he “embarrassed myself and other people”.

He stood down after allegedly assaulting two fellow guests at the Carlton Club – a Tory Party private members’ club in London’s Piccadilly – on Wednesday evening, The Sun claimed.

The Metropolitan Police said it was not aware of any calls to that location last night. It also said there was no record on its systems of any related reports submitted today.

Reacting to Pincher’s resignation, Ms Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, said in a statement: “This latest episode shows how far standards in public life have been degraded on Boris Johnson’s watch.

“Boris Johnson has serious questions to answer about why Chris Pincher was given this role in the first place and how he can remain a Conservative MP.

“The Conservative party is so mired in sleaze and scandal that it is totally unable to tackle the challenges facing the British people.

“The Conservative MPs who continue to prop up this prime minister’s paralysed administration need to grow a backbone and tell him the party’s over.”

In his letter of resignation to the prime minister, Mr Pincher apologised to Mr Johnson, saying it had been “the honour of my life” to have served in the government.

The Tamworth MP said: “Last night I drank far too much. I’ve embarrassed myself and other people which is the last thing I want to do and for that I apologise to you and to those concerned.

“I think the right thing to do in the circumstances is for me to resign as deputy chief whip. I owe it to you and the people I’ve caused upset to, to do this.

“I want to assure you that you will continue to have my full support from the back benches, and I wish you all the best as you deal with aftershocks of Covid and the challenges of international inflation.

“It has been the honour of my life to have served in Her Majesty’s Government.”

It is the second time he has quit the whip’s office, having resigned as a junior whip in November 2017 following a complaint that he made an unwanted pass at the former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story.

Having referred himself to both the police and the Conservative Party complaints procedure, he was brought back by Theresa May as deputy chief whip in January 2018.

With additional reporting from the Press Association

“We got the big calls right” – Boris Johnson 19 January 

A phrase often repeated by Helen Hurford who failed to hang on to the “safe” seat of Tiverton and Honiton.

So why is our economy tanking? – Owl

“The UK is on course to be the worst performing developed world economy this year after being hit with inflationary pressures that will drive up prices more than in neighbouring economies in Europe and the US.”

Doesn’t look as if it will come good before the next election either.

[The general claim of getting the big calls right has always been contentious even with regard to the handling of the pandemic see ]

Mehreen Khan

UK economic growth slowed at the start of the year amid mounting fears that the economy will tip into recession by the end of 2022.

Official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) maintained an initial estimate of 0.8 per cent growth in the first three months of the year, down from 1.3 per cent in the previous quarter and in line with estimates. Year-on-year growth was 8.7 per cent, also in line with initial estimates from the ONS.

The GDP figures mean that the UK economy has just surpassed its pre-pandemic peak but growth is on course to shrink in the second quarter after a monthly GDP contraction of 0.3 per cent was recorded in April.

Economists widely expect that a combination of higher national insurance contributions, additional bank holidays over the Jubilee weekend and climbing inflation will cause growth to turn negative in three months to June, the first quarterly GDP fall since the start of last year.

The ONS said that IT, transport and manufacturing were the main drivers of economic growth in the first quarter. Rising inflation meant, however, that households’ real disposable income fell by 0.2 per cent in the first quarter, the fourth consecutive quarterly decline. Consumer price inflation has hit 9.1 per cent and will peak at above 11 per cent in October, according to the Bank of England, driven mainly by the rising cost of energy and food.

The UK is on course to be the worst performing developed world economy this year after being hit with inflationary pressures that will drive up prices more than in neighbouring economies in Europe and the US.

Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, repeated warnings this week that households were facing sharp falls in real incomes, a factor that will depress growth for the next three years. The Bank expects UK GDP to remain stagnant until 2024.

“Our latest estimate for economic growth in the first quarter is unrevised as a whole, showing the UK continued to recover from the pandemic,” Darren Morgan, director for economist statistics at the ONS, said. “Both household incomes and spending rose in cash terms in the first quarter, leaving the rate of saving unchanged. However, once taking account of inflation, incomes fell again, for the fourth consecutive quarter.”