Business as usual – Owl
Sam Blewett www.independent.co.uk
Boris Johnson is under growing pressure over his decision to give Chris Pincher a ministerial role amid claims he knew about allegations against the Conservative MP years before appointing to a government job.
The prime minister is said to have referred to the MP as “handsy” and joked about him being “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” as early as 2020.
Mr Pincher quit as Conservative deputy chief whip after he was accused of drunkenly groping two men at a private members’ club in London this week.
One of the MP for Tamworth’s latest accusers has said he was “shell-shocked” by prime minister delaying kicking him out of the parliamentary party.
Mr Johnson only bowed to pressure to remove the whip from his ally, meaning he is now sitting in the Commons as an independent, after an official investigation was launched.
Mr Johnson was also facing questions over how much he knew about Mr Pincher’s behaviour when he made him deputy chief whip in February.
Former adviser Dominic Cummings said the prime minister had referred to the MP “laughingly in No 10 as ‘Pincher by name, pincher by nature’ long before appointing him”.
A string of fresh allegations emerged as Mr Pincher said he is seeking “professional medical support” and hopes to return to represent his constituents in Staffordshire “as soon as possible”.
A Conservative MP told The Independent he had been groped on two occasions by Mr Pincher, first in December 2021 and again last month.
The Mail on Sunday reported that the former deputy chief aide he threatened to report a parliamentary researcher to her boss after she tried to stop his “lecherous” advances to a young man at a Tory party conference.
And The Sunday Times alleged he made unwanted passes at two Conservative MPs in 2017 and 2018, after his first resignation as a whip over claims he made unwanted advances to Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, the PM’s decision in February to appoint Mr Pincher to help oversee party discipline led to protestations in the whips’ office and prompted resignation of another senior whip, Craig Whittaker.
One of the latest alleged victims shared his anger at Mr Johnson over his handling of the incident at the exclusive Carlton Club on Wednesday.
The man told The Sunday Times that he initially did not want to report the incident, thinking “this is something that happens in Westminster”.
“But I am angered by the fact that I should feel like that, and even more angry by the way No 10 have dealt with it . . . I am furious. I know it sounds really silly but I felt shell-shocked when I found out they were initially going to let him keep the whip,” he added.
Mr Pincher did not respond to requests for comment on the latest allegations, but the newspapers behind them said he denied the claims.
Downing Street did not deny that there had been concerns about Mr Pincher before his appointment, but insisted Mr Johnson “was not aware of any specific allegations”.
Mr Johnson initially resisted calls to remove the whip until Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme launched an investigation on Friday.
The latest allegations came after the Conservative Party was hit by a series of scandals relating to sexual misconduct.
In May, Neil Parish quit as MP for Tiverton and Honiton after admitting viewing pornography in the Commons chamber.
A month earlier then-Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan was jailed for 18 months for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.
In both cases, the Conservatives lost the ensuing by-elections.
A third unnamed Tory MP has been told by whips to stay away from Parliament after being arrested on suspicion of rape and other offences.
In a statement, Mr Pincher said he would “co-operate fully” with the investigation.
“As I told the prime minister, I drank far too much on Wednesday night, embarrassing myself and others, and I am truly sorry for the upset I caused,” he continued.
“The stresses of the last few days, coming on top of those over the last several months, have made me accept that I will benefit from professional medical support.
“I am in the process of seeking that now, and I hope to be able to return to my constituency duties as soon as possible.”