Johnson Accused of ‘Sweeping Sexual Misconduct Under Carpet’, ‘Failure to Act’ Over Pincher Claims
06:07 GMT 04.07.2022 (Updated: 15:20 GMT 28.05.2023)
The Tory deputy chief whip Christopher Pincher resigned on 1 July after admitting to having "drunk far too much", but he drew a veil over reports that he groped two men in a London club. The MP for Tamworth was later suspended by his party once a formal complaint of sexual misconduct was lodged with the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.
Boris Johnson promoted Tory ally Christopher Pincher to a key role despite “matters” relating to allegations of sexual misconduct
by the politician having been raised during the February cabinet reshuffle, a whips’ office source has been cited as saying by The Guardian.
The embattled Tory MP quit as deputy chief whip on 1 July and was later suspended by his party over allegations that on Wednesday evening he groped two men at the Carlton Club - a Conservative Party private members’ club in St James's Street, just off Piccadilly in London.
In his resignation letter, Pincher said he "drank far too much" and "embarrassed [himself] and other people", stopping short of actually mentioning the inappropriate behavior several Conservative MPs claim he was guilty of.
Allegations against Pincher are now to be investigated by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS).
‘Pincher by Name, Pincher by Nature’
Chris Pincher, MP for Tamworth in Staffordshire since 2010, had been appointed deputy chief whip regardless of certain ‘red flags’ having been raised by a Conservative MP who was supposedly the subject of unwanted attention from the politician.
According to the Guardian, another MP had also raised allegations of sexual misconduct by Pincher with their whip in February.
“I told a whip what I thought of Pincher, and that he had a terrible reputation with younger staff and MPs which had not gone away. That still stands,” the source was quoted as saying.
The MP is said to have refrained from making a formal complaint at the time as he could not guarantee that the accusers would come forward in case a full-blown inquiry was triggered.
“I would not have wanted to have done that without a victim's express permission. But I wanted them to know that there were claims out there,” the MP in question reportedly added.
Senior figures in the party had been alerted to the fact that “Pincher should not be anywhere near the whips office,” a third MP is believed to have said.
According to other insiders, there had been “persistent rumors about Chris and how he behaves when drunk.”
‘Failure to Act on Warnings’
Claims regarding Pincher
“come as no surprise” to a group of parliamentary aides - Conservative Staffers for Change - who previously wrote to the PM to express concerns about alleged sexual misconduct in Westminster
“His behavior was an open secret in Westminster and it is disappointing that this was not addressed sooner. Having raised concerns about sexual misconduct with the chief whip, we were disappointed not only by how long it took to remove the whip from Pincher, but also at the continued lack of clarity about the PM’s knowledge of his behavior,” they were quoted as stating.
“We wrote the letter to the PM raising concerns about illegal sexual misconduct [by those in power abusing their positions] in May, yet received no response. This is about more than just the culture in Westminster, it is about the PM’s failure to act on warnings of serious misconduct from those in government.”
Two staffers representing the group are set to meet with parliamentary Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, this week to “raise concerns about parliament as a workplace and how employment structures can be reformed”.
Former No 10 adviser, Dominic Cummings, could not pass up an opportunity to add fuel to the fire, claiming that Boris Johnson had referred to the disgraced MP as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” long before he appointed him in February, 2022.
Pincher previously quit office in 2017 after being accused of making a pass at former Olympic rower and Tory activist Alex Story. At the time, the Tory MP referred himself to police but was cleared of wrongdoing by a party probe.
However, since six further claims of inappropriate behavior have emerged over the weekend, according to media reports, the PM is likely to face questions in parliament regarding the extent of his knowledge about allegations concerning Pincher before he was appointed to a key role.
Pincher had placed his hand on the inside thigh of a male Tory MP in a bar in Parliament in 2017, the Sunday Times reported at the weekend, adding that the politician had also made unwanted advances towards another male Tory MP in 2018 in his parliamentary office, and towards a Tory activist in Tamworth around July 2019.
The Sunday Times reported that the MP involved in the alleged incident in 2018 contacted No 10 before Pincher was made a whip in February, passing on details of what he said had happened to him and voicing his concerns about his being appointed to the role.
Anneliese Dodds, chairwoman of the Labour party, has written to the prime minister demanding that he clarify how Pincher came to be appointed as deputy chief whip.
Dodds asked why Johnson was not demanding the Tory party investigate Pincher, as in the case with Neil Parish, the Tory MP who resigned after admitting to having watched pornography in the House of Commons.
“Only Boris Johnson could have looked at this guy’s record and thought ‘he deserves a promotion',” Dodds said, adding:
“This prime minister is clearly happy to sweep sexual misconduct under the carpet in order to save his own skin. Conservative MPs need to take a long hard look in the mirror and decide if this is the kind of leader the British people deserve.”
The new wave of harassment allegations feeds into earlier scandals linked to the Conservative Party. Previously, ex-MP Imran Khan was arrested for rape (he was subsequently bailed without being charged), and Parish was accused of watching porn in the House of Commons.
Defending the PM, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told the BBC that she had been given the assurance by "somebody from the No 10 press office" that Boris Johnson had not been aware of "specific allegations" against Pincher at the time of the appointment.
The latter had gone “through [a] vetting process like normal," she told Sky News.