How can a 10 Downing Street source say Boris Johnson was unaware of specific sexual assault allegations against now-former Tory whip Chris Pincher when Dominic Cummings said the prime minister referred to him as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature”?
New claims have been made against Chris Pincher over the weekend. The BBC lists them in the following way:
The Sunday Times reported Mr Pincher had placed his hand on the inner leg of a male Tory MP in a bar in Parliament in 2017.
The newspaper reported Mr Pincher also made unwanted advances towards a different male Tory MP in 2018 while in his parliamentary office, and towards a Tory activist in Tamworth around July 2019.
The Mail on Sunday carried allegations he had made advances against an individual a decade ago, and that a female Tory staffer had tried to prevent his advances towards a young man at a Conservative Party conference.
The Independent carried allegations from an unnamed male Conservative MP that Mr Pincher groped him on two separate occasions in December 2021 and June this year.
The Sunday Times reported that the MP involved in the alleged incident in 2018 contacted No 10 before Mr Pincher was made a whip in February, passing on details of what he said had happened to him and voicing his concerns about him being appointed to the role.
That’s a lot of “pinching”!
Johnson himself was said to have considered the matter closed after Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip, but this raised concerns about unequal treatment of MPs who are accused of inappropriate behaviour (or, in this case, sexual crimes).
Neil Parish had to resign as an MP after being caught watching pornography on his mobile phone in the Commons chamber, and that is a far less significant offence than sexually assaulting other people.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Pincher was subsequently reported to Parliament’s independent behaviour watchdog and an inquiry began. The Tory whip was summarily removed from him, meaning he must sit as an independent MP until that matter is concluded.
In fact it is understood that he will stay away from Parliament while the inquiry runs its course.
The controversy – and Boris Johnson’s failure to act in a timely way – has led to renewed speculation over his fitness to continue as the UK’s political leader.
Labour’s Jonathan Reynolds has said Johnson’s Conservatives have been motivated by “what is politically expedient over what is right”.
And even former Conservative Party chairman and home secretary Lord Baker has said it is “unlikely” Boris Johnson is “the right man” to lead the party.
The longer this matter drags on, the worse it will be for Johnson – who is himself alleged to have behaved in a sexually-inappropriate way as foreign secretary.
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