Pincher allegations more evidence of Tory failure to handle sexual misconduct

Katie Neame
© David Woolfall/CC BY 3.0
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Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher has resigned after allegedly groping two men while drunk. In his resignation letter to Boris Johnson, Pincher said he “drank far too much” and “embarrassed myself and other people”. Reacting to the news, Angela Rayner said the incident shows “how far standards in public life have been degraded” during the Prime Minister’s tenure. The deputy Labour leader declared: “Boris Johnson has serious questions to answer about why Chris Pincher was given this role in the first place and how he can remain a Conservative MP. There cannot be any question of the Conservatives sweeping a potential sexual assault under the carpet.”

Yvette Cooper described Johnson’s handling of the allegations as a “total disgrace“. Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, the Shadow Home Secretary demanded a full investigation and called for Pincher to lose the Tory Party whip while the inquiry was underway. She stressed that the Conservatives “have to show they take this kind of thing more seriously”, arguing: “Time and again, Boris Johnson just doesn’t.” Cooper accused the Prime Minister of selecting Pincher as deputy chief whip because he was a “friend and ally”, highlighting that the Tory MP had previously been forced to resign from the whip’ office in 2017 over similar allegations.

Johnson was reportedly aware of allegations of inappropriate behaviour made against Pincher ahead of the reshuffle in which he was appointed deputy chief whip. This echoes the abject failure of the Conservative Party’s vetting of disgraced Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan – who in April was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy. The victim alleges that he was ignored by the party when he reported the assault ahead of Khan’s election to parliament in 2019. This latest incident is the fifth example of potential sexual misconduct by a Conservative MP in three months and yet more evidence that the Tory Party is ill-equipped to handle such allegations. That Pincher was a party whip, responsible for maintaining discipline and standards, is especially damning.

I spoke to councillors in Harrow about the party’s defeat in the borough at the local elections. The new leader of the Labour group David Perry – who took over the role following the results – told me that the party is currently going through a process to “understand what’s gone wrong”. He said the party knew that the election would be a “tough, tough fight” but they did not expect to lose. Fellow councillor Antonio Weiss took a slightly different viewpoint, saying he had been “fearing” such a result: “It was more disappointing I think than I thought, but it was definitely in the range of potential outcomes that I thought might happen.”

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