Downing Street denies 'untrue' Diane Abbott claim that Boris Johnson 'likes assaulting women'

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Downing Street, in London, Friday July 1, 2022. (John Sibley/Pool Photo via AP)
Boris Johnson has come under growing pressure over his handling of allegations against Chris Pincher. (PA)

Downing Street has denied an unfounded claim by Labour MP Diane Abbott that Boris Johnson "likes assaulting women".

The Conservative Party has been embroiled in a row over how it has handled allegations of sexual assault following the resignation of Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip last week.

In a statement on Thursday, Pincher said he had “embarrassed myself and other people” after having had “far too much” to drink the night before.

The Sun reported that he stood down after allegedly “groping” two male guests at the Carlton Club – a Tory Party private members’ club in London’s Piccadilly.

Despite widespread anger, Pincher has refused to stand down as an MP. The prime minister only bowed to pressure on Friday to remove the Conservative whip from his ally — meaning he is now sitting in the Commons as an independent — after an official investigation was launched.

Read more: Tory whip suspended from Chris Pincher after formal investigation launched

Diane Abbott speaking during a Stand Up to Racism taking the knee event outside Downing Street in London in solidarity with England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. Picture date: Saturday July 17, 2021.
Diane Abbott made an unsubstantiated comment that Boris Johnson 'likes assaulting women'. (PA)

The controversy has piled pressure on an already embattled Johnson, amid questions about the handling of the allegations and the wisdom of the initial decision to promote Pincher to a role as deputy chief whip.

There have been reports Johnson was aware of allegations against Pincher prior to the appointment, but he did do anyway.

“He was aware that there had been reports and speculations over the years... But there was no specific allegation, there was no formal complaint at that time," the prime minister's spokesperson said.

Former No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings alleged that Johnson had referred to the MP as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” long before appointing him in February.

A spokesperson for the PM did not deny claim, but instead said: “I’m simply not going to comment on content of what was or wasn’t said in private conversations.”

Watch: No 10 assures minister PM was unaware of Pincher allegations

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 on Sunday, the Labour MP Diane Abbott said a man sexually assaulting a woman "might be treated differently" from Pincher allegedly groping two men.

The former shadow home secretary then made an unsubstantiated comment which has since been deleted from the playback of the programme.

She said: "But that's because Boris Johnson has been rumoured to be the one who likes assaulting women. So it's sheer hypocrisy from him."

A Downing Street spokesperson said in response to the claim: “I mean obviously that claim is untrue.

"I’m not going to get into engaging on political points beyond that… I think the BBC have already taken some action on that."

Chris Pincher said he (Parliament)
Chris Pincher has been suspended from the party following accusations he groped two men. (Parliament)

Pincher had already quit the whips’ office in 2017 after a complaint that he had made an unwanted pass at former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story.

Story, who was a young Tory activist at the time, alleged that year that the MP untucked the back of his shirt, massaged his neck and whispered: “You’ll go far in the Tory Party."

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

The Mail on Sunday alleged that he threatened to report a parliamentary researcher to her boss after she tried to stop his “lecherous” advances to a young man at a Conservative Party conference.

The Sunday Times claimed that he made unwanted passes at two Conservative MPs in 2017 and 2018 – after his first resignation as a whip.

The Labour Party is continuing to press Downing Street over the handling of the issue.

Shadow minister Baroness Jenny Chapman told BBC Breakfast on Monday: “We want to know who knew what and when and why those decisions were made the way they were.

“I don’t think anybody in Westminster believes that Boris Johnson did not know about the allegations about Pincher.”

The PM's spokesperson acknowledged on Monday he “was aware of media reports” and of “allegations that were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint”, when Pincher was appointed to the whip's office in February.

A Tory MP told the Independent he was groped on two occasions by Pincher, first in December 2021 and again last month.

Pincher has denied those allegations.

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