Labour demands answers over what PM knew of prior Pincher allegations

·5-min read
Labour demands answers over what PM knew of prior Pincher allegations

Boris Johnson is facing demands from Labour to set out what he knew about allegations of inappropriate behaviour centring on Chris Pincher before appointing him to the Tory whips’ office.

The Prime Minister is alleged to have referred to the MP as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” before making him deputy chief whip in February.

The MP for Tamworth in Staffordshire resigned from the role after being accused of drunkenly groping two men in a private members’ club in London.

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It was the second time he resigned from the whips’ office after Conservative candidate Alex Story accused him of making an inappropriate advance in 2017.

A series of fresh allegations emerged over the weekend, as one Tory backbencher said claims about Mr Pincher had been “swirling around Westminster for years”.

Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds has written to the Prime Minister demanding to know what Downing Street knew of the allegations about his ally before his second appointment as a whip.

“Only Boris Johnson could have looked at this guy’s record and thought ‘he deserves a promotion’,” she added in a statement.

“This Prime Minister is clearly happy to sweep sexual misconduct under the carpet in order to save his own skin.”

She also questioned why the Tory whip was not suspended, meaning the MP now sits as an independent, until Friday when the incident took place at the Carlton Club on Wednesday.

A Downing Street source has argued that Mr Johnson took the move after speaking to a Tory MP who was with one of the men allegedly groped by Mr Pincher.

Chris Pincher was allegedly “incredibly drunk” on the night he groped two men at a private members’ club, reports have stated.

Following a host of accusations of inappropriate behaviour one of the MPs who accused his now suspended colleague of groping him, said he was left “furious” over how No10 initially handled the incident.

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.

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.

Speaking to Sky News, one MP present on the night of the incident, said: “He was beyond the limit when he should have been socialising.

“He was slurring and mumbling some nonsense and came back in saying he needed the loo after he was asked to leave.”

Asked if he had seen Mr Pincher drunk before, the MP added: “Not that bad. He was incredibly drunk.”

Speaking to The Sunday Times, one of the men who accused Mr Pincher of groping them said they were “shell-shocked” that the Tamworth MP wasn’t immediately kicked out of the parliamentary party.

“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.

In both reports, it is understood Mark Fletcher, MP for Bolsover attempted to escort Mr Pincher away.

Sarah Dines, a junior whip was also notified by one of the men who was allegedly groped and quickly notfied chief whip, Chris Heaton-Harris.

Mr Pincher did not respond to requests for comment on the latest allegations, but the newspapers behind them said he denied the claims.

A Government spokesperson told Sky News: “We take all allegations of this nature extremely seriously and would encourage anyone with any allegations to come forward to the relevant authorities.”

Mr Pincher has since said he is seeking “professional medical support” and hopes to return to represent his constituents in Staffordshire “as soon as possible”.

Downing Street did not deny accounts 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.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

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.”