Boris Johnson 'dragged' into suspending Tory MP after groping claim

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Boris Johnson has suspended Chris Pincher as a Tory MP
Boris Johnson has suspended Chris Pincher as a Tory MP

A TORY MP accused of drunkenly groping two men has had the whip suspended from him after resigning from his position in the UK Government.

Boris Johnson caved to pressure after a complaint about Tamworth MP Chris Pincher was made to Parliament's watchdog that investigates allegations of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct.

Mr Pincher dramatically quit as Tory deputy chief whip after a drunken incident in which he allegedly groped two guests at a London club.

The Prime Minister had yesterday been resisting calls to go further and remove the whip, meaning the Tory MP would sit as an independent in the Commons.

But yesterday afternoon, the action was taken after a formal complaint was made to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS).

A spokeswoman for Conservative chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Having heard that a formal complaint has been made to the ICGS, the PM has agreed with the chief whip that the whip should be suspended from Chris Pincher while the investigation is ongoing.

“We will not pre-judge that investigation. We urge colleagues and the media to respect that process.”

Former housing minister Kelly Tolhurst has been appointed as the new Tory deputy chief whip following the resignation of Mr Pincher.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the Prime Minister was forced into suspending Mr Pincher.

She said: “Boris Johnson has been dragged kicking and screaming into taking any action at all.

“He just can’t be trusted to do the right thing. This whole scandal is yet more evidence of his appalling judgement.

“It’s time for Conservative MPs to show this chaotic Prime Minister the door before he can do any more damage.”

In his resignation letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Pincher apologised for his behaviour, saying it had been “the honour of my life” to have served in the Government.

“Last night I drank far too much. I’ve embarrassed myself and other people which is the last thing I want to do and for that I apologise to you and to those concerned,” he said.

The alleged incident reportedly took place in the Carlton Club – the original home of the Conservative Party – in London’s Piccadilly.

Downing Street insisted that Mr Johnson had no reason to block Mr Pincher’s appointment as Conservative deputy chief whip, despite reports suggesting there had been concerns about him.

No 10 appeared to acknowledge that there had been concerns when he was appointed to the key post of deputy chief whip, with responsibility for discipline over Tory MPs, in February.

However a No 10 spokesman said the Prime Minister had not been made aware of anything that would have prevented the appointment going ahead.

He said: “In the absence of any formal complaints, it was not appropriate to stop an appointment on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations.”

The only two women Tory MPs to chair Commons select committees – Caroline Nokes and Karen Bradley – had called for a policy of “zero tolerance” for any such alleged conduct, with any MP facing such allegations having the Conservative whip withdrawn while they are investigated.

In a joint letter to the Prime Minister, they said: “The party and, by extension, the Government are at risk of serious reputational damage by the current approach.

“We urge you to act swiftly to introduce a code of conduct for all Conservative members of Parliament which is clear in terms of the expectations of behaviour and which can be applied in a fair, independent manner so as to avoid any suspicion of bias.”

Downing Street confirmed there had been an exchange of messages between Mr Johnson and Mr Pincher on Thursday evening but declined to say whether it was before or after Mr Pincher submitted his resignation.

A No 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister thinks it was right for him to have resigned and he has accepted his resignation.

“He believes that the behaviour was unacceptable, which is why he’s accepted the resignation.”

Mr Johnson was under pressure to explain why he gave Mr Pincher such a sensitive post amid reports that he had been advised not to do so.

The Tamworth MP was brought in alongside chief whip, Mr Heaton-Harris – another trusted ally – to shore up support for the Prime Minister amid growing unrest among Tory MPs over the disclosures about lockdown parties in Downing Street.

In 2017 Mr Pincher quit the whips office after a complaint over an unwanted pass at the former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story.

However he was reinstated two months later as a senior whip by Theresa May after having referred himself to both the police and the Conservative Party complaints procedure.

Asked whether Mr Johnson had been warned about his latest appointment – following a spell at the Foreign Office – the No 10 spokesman said: “He was not aware of any specific allegations.”

The latest disclosures come after the Conservative Party has been 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, while the previous month 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 Conservative MP has been told by the whips to stay away from Parliament after he was arrested on suspicion of rape and other offences.

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