Chris Pincher has had the Conservative whip withdrawn following a day of mounting pressure on Boris Johnson to take action against his ally after allegations emerged that the Tory deputy chief whip groped two men at a private members’ club.
Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip in a letter to Boris Johnson this morning, saying that he “drank far too much” and “embarrassed myself and other people” at the Conservative Party members’ club in London on Wednesday evening.
After the MP for Tamworth quit his government post, a cabinet minister initially suggested that Pincher would soon have the whip removed but a Downing Street source said he would face no further action from the party.
The government U-turned in the face of pressure from colleagues and withdrew the whip, however, meaning that the now backbench MP will sit as an Independent.
A spokeswoman for Conservative chief whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “Having heard that a formal complaint has been made to the ICGS, the Prime Minister 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.”
Reacting to the news that the MP for Tamworth, in Staffordshire, has had the Tory Party whip withdrawn this evening, Angela Rayner declared: “Boris Johnson has been dragged kicking and screaming into taking any action at all.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.”
The deputy Labour leader said earlier today that the incident showed “how far standards in public life have been degraded” during the Prime Minister’s tenure. Johnson has come under pressure over his own behaviour in relation to the ‘partygate’ scandal, for which he was fined for breaking the law, among others.
Yvette Cooper described Johnson’s handling of the allegations as a “total disgrace” this morning. The Shadow Home Secretary demanded a full investigation and called for Pincher to lose the Conservative Party whip.
She told BBC Radio 4 Today programme listeners that the Tories and the Prime Minister “have to show they take this kind of thing more seriously”, arguing: “Time and again, Boris Johnson just doesn’t.”
Figures beyond the Labour Party had also called for Pincher to lose the whip. Former Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish said this afternoon that he “can’t believe” Johnson had not done so following the allegations of sexual assault.
Parish said that in his own misconduct scandal in April, when he was revealed to have watched pornography in the Commons chamber, he lost the whip swiftly. The removal of the Conservative Party whip led to the Tiverton and Honiton by-election last month, in which the Lib Dems took the seat from the Tories.
“I can’t believe why they haven’t done it, because that was the first thing they did to me, even though I asked for it to be sorted out privately,” Parish said.
Following Pincher’s resignation it came to light that he had been appointed to the influential role despite concerns about earlier behaviour. He resigned his position in the whips’ office under Theresa May in 2017 after a complaint over an unwanted pass at the former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story.
No 10 denied that Johnson knew about any sexual misconduct claims against the Tory MP before making him deputy chief whip. No 10 admitted, however, that the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team examined Pincher’s suitability but said it could not block any appointment based on “unsubstantiated rumour”.