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Dominic Raab clashes with Susanna Reid over PM's ‘lies’ about Pincher scandal

·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
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Dominic Raab has clashed with Good Morning Britain’s Susanna Reid during a tense interview discussing why Boris Johnson hired Tory MP Chris Pincher as a minister despite multiple allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip last week, following reports he groped two male guests at the Carlton Club – a Tory Party private members’ club in London’s Piccadilly.

It later emerged that numerous MPs had raised concerns about Pincher's behaviour before he was given the government job, which involves responsibility for MPs' welfare.

Raab conducted a series of interviews on the topic on Tuesday morning, including one where he accused Reid of using "loaded terms".

In a bombshell letter published on Tuesday, former top civil servant Simon McDonald claimed Johnson was briefed “in person” about the allegations before deciding to hire Pincher, disputing No 10's claims that the prime minister wasn't aware of "specific" previous allegations.

Susanna Reid clashed with Dominic Raab over what Boris Johnson knew about Chris Pincher (GMB)
Susanna Reid clashed with Dominic Raab over what Boris Johnson knew about Chris Pincher (GMB)

McDonald, former head of the Foreign Office who left in 2020, wrote to Parliament’s standards commissioner saying Downing Street has made “inaccurate claims” about what the prime minister knew about Pincher and when.

Later on Tuesday, a government minister Michael Ellis admitted in the House of Commons that Johnson was indeed briefed on the allegations in late 2019 – but forgot about it.

Deputy prime minister Raab faced a fierce exchange with Reid on Tuesday morning, saying the PM was right to hire Pincher because "no formal disciplinary action was taken" following an investigation upholding a complaint against him.

Following a discussion over whether it was acceptable to say Pincher was "found guilty", Reid asked: "Was he guilty of inappropriate behaviour or not?’

Raab replied: "He was found… the claim was found to be substantiated but we didn’t-."

As Susanna interjected: "So he was found guilty of inappropriate behaviour?

Raab replied: "No, no Susanna, guilty is a very loaded term, and whilst it’s clear that there is inappropriate-"

Reid cut back in: "Sorry, inappropriate behaviour is a pretty loaded term, Mr Raab."

Raab appeared flustered as he responded: "Sorry, if you’ll allow me to… Susanna you always do this. Let me give you the account and your viewers can make up their minds. I’m always happy to answer difficult questions."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures at the start of the second plenary session of the NATO summit in Madrid, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. North Atlantic Treaty Organization heads of state will meet for a NATO summit in Madrid from Tuesday through Thursday. (Eliot Blondet, Pool via AP)
Boris Johnson was fully aware of claims against Chris Pincher, a new letter has claimed. (AP)

Number 10 initially claimed Johnson was not aware of any "specific allegations" when he made Pincher deputy chief whip in a February reshuffle.

On Monday, Downing Street said: "The prime minister was aware of media reports that others had seen over the years, and some allegations that were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint.”

A spokesperson insisted: "In the absence of a formal complaint it was not appropriate to stop an appointment on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations."

Tory MP Mark Harper criticised the PM for sending ministers to defend untruths.

He told the BBC's Politics Live it "appeared" ministers had been "lied to… before being sent out to the media".

The delay to suspend the whip from Pincher has also sparked anger that potentially serious allegations are not being treated appropriately by the PM.

Simon McDonald has written to Parliament’s standards commissioner saying Downing Street has made “inaccurate claims” about what the prime minister knew (Twitter)
Simon McDonald has written to Parliament’s standards commissioner saying Downing Street has made “inaccurate claims” about what the prime minister knew (Twitter)
Chris Pincher said he (Parliament)
Chris Pincher resigned following allegations he groped to men. (Parliament)

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the “latest disturbing allegations about ministerial misconduct are all about abuse of power”.

She called into question Johnson’s recollection of events before telling Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis: “Since the resignation of yet another of the prime minister’s ethics advisers last month, there has been an even bigger ethical vacuum in Downing Street with no accountability in place.”

Rayner added: “The prime minister was personally informed about these allegations and yet he was either negligent or complicit.”

The Labour MP went on: “When will this minister stop defending the indefensible and say enough is enough?"

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