Chris Pincher may well be taking consolation from what he has described as his favourite story – Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows – which, of course, involves a reckless character who needs the help of friends to save himself from himself.
In the Wind in the Willows, Toad sees the error of his wild, excessive ways and ends up living happily ever after. Whether Pincher’s situation has a happy ending remains to be seen. But he undoubtedly needs friends.
Before this week, Pincher had only ever been in the national news once: for the unedifying account of how he was said to have untucked the shirt of the Olympic rower and Tory activist Alex Story, rubbed his neck, and told him: “You’ll go far in the Conservative party.”
Story wrote about the 2001 incident for the Mail on Sunday in 2017, at the height of stories about sexual misconduct in Westminster. Story said Pincher disappeared into another room and “returned in a bathrobe like a poundshop Harvey Weinstein, with his chest and belly hanging out”.
At which point, Story said, he made his apologies and left. The MP said sorry for any offence and resigned his position as a government whip.
Pincher was born in Walsall and grew up in Wombourne, near Wolverhampton. After studying history at the London School of Economics, he joined the management and IT consultancy firm Andersen, now Accenture, where he worked for 18 years, most recently as a “senior outsourcing manager”.
Politicised by the miners’ strike, he joined the Conservative party in 1987 and worked for Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership team in 2001. He was elected MP for Tamworth in 2010, his second attempt, taking a seat that had been held by Labour for 14 years.
In an early interview as MP, Pincher explained his political motivation. “I believe it is the duty of government to stay out of people’s lives as much as possible,” he told the Tamworth Herald. “For example, the threat of possibly introducing a national ID card, I object very strongly to the idea that the home secretary can tell me what I’ve got to carry in my wallet. I’m a free man. I don’t have to tell the police who I am, they should believe me when I say who I am.”
Pincher has not discussed his sexuality but did, in 2013, give his views on the landmark bill allowing same-sex couples to marry.
He said he voted for it but said there were “significant problems”. He told a sixth-form question time in Tamworth: “If you look at the bill, it removes equality. The bill says that same-sex couples can have a civil partnership or get married, but straight couples can only get married. That’s unfair. Why can’t straight people have a civil partnership?”
Pincher said a “solution” would be to let the church decide whether gay couples could marry or not. “We should get the state out of marriage altogether.”
His slow rise up the greasy pole of government began in 2016 when he served as private parliamentary secretary to the then foreign secretary Philip Hammond. He became a whip in 2017, resigning after six months because of the Mail on Sunday claims.
In July 2019, Boris Johnson made him a minister in the Foreign Office, and in 2020 moved him to become a housing minister. Pincher returned to the whips office in February this year, before resigning for a second time this week. He subsequently was suspended from the party altogether, pending an investigation.
As well as speaking out strongly about too much state intervention, Pincher has also been a vocal critic of HS2.
He has listed his literary loves as Evelyn Waugh, Arnold Bennett, R L Stevenson, John Buchan and Simon Raven. Pincher describes his interests as golf, horse racing and grands prix – “watching not driving”.