Downing Street accused of covering up allegations against disgraced MP Chris Pincher
Boris Johnson was “briefed in person” about an investigation into disgraced MP’s Chris Pincher’s conduct before he was appointed deputy chief whip, according to a top government official.
In his damning letter, the former permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, said there had been “significant confusion” in the press since Chris Pincher’s resignation as deputy chief whip.
The Tamworth MP stood down from the post on Thursday (30 June) after he was accused of groping two men at the Carlton Club in London. In 2017, he voluntarily referred himself to police after he was accused of making an unwanted sexual advance on Olympic rower Alex Story.
McDonald said No 10 had made “inaccurate” claims that Johnson was “not aware of any specific allegations” against Pincher when he was appointed deputy chief whip in February.
In his letter, McDonald said Pincher faced similar allegations shortly after he was appointed minister of state at the Foreign Office in the summer of 2019.
This morning I have written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards – because No 10 keep changing their story and are still not telling the truth. pic.twitter.com/vln9FU4V50
— Simon McDonald (@SimonMcDonaldUK) July 5, 2022
"Some people are being protected and others are not."
McDonald said a “group of officials” complained to him about Pincher’s “behaviour” and he discussed the allegations with “the relevant official at the Cabinet Office”.
“An investigation upheld the complaint; Mr Pincher apologised and promised not to repeat the inappropriate behaviour,” McDonald wrote.
No 10 made ‘inaccurate’ claims about just how much Johnson knew
He noted that after claiming Johnson wasn’t aware of complaints against Pincher, No 10 later changed its stance, saying the prime minister knew of “allegations that were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint” concerning Pincher.
“The original No 10 line is not true and the modification is still not accurate,” McDonald wrote.
“Mr Johnson was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation. There was a ‘formal complaint’. Allegations were ‘resolved’ only in the sense that the investigation was completed; Mr Pincher was not exonerated. To characterise the allegations as ‘unsubstantiated’ is therefore wrong.”
McDonald said he had written his letter out of “duty” to Pincher’s alleged victims, saying the MP had “deceived” government officials about his behaviour in 2019.
“He cannot be allowed to use the confidentiality of the process three years ago to pursue his predatory behaviour in other contexts,” McDonald wrote.
After Pincher resigned from his post, it took almost 24 hours for the Tory party to suspend the whip from him, sparking yet more criticism of Boris Johnson.
Chris Pincher allegedly attended a meeting ‘drunk’
Rumours continue to swirl about Chris Pincher’s behaviour, with other MPs coming forward to express concern about his alcohol consumption in Westminster.
Tory MP Caroline Nokes told The News Desk on TalkTV that she was having a meeting with a senior official when Chris Pincher walked in “drunk”.
Tory MP Caroline Nokes says she was having a meeting with a senior member of the Party when Chris Pincher "came into the meeting and I could smell alcohol on him."
— The News Desk (@TheNewsDesk) July 4, 2022
“I was having a meeting with a senior member of the party and Chris came into the meeting and I could smell alcohol on him,” Nokes said.
“Now look, there’s a culture in Westminster of excessive drinking, and I’m not one of the puritans who says ‘shut down all the bars’, I think they have a role to play. But I think it’s really important that measures are taken when colleagues have problems.
“The whip’s office should be about welfare, shouldn’t it, and it shouldn’t be about glossing over problems, ignoring them, brushing them under the carpet.”
Nokes said “nothing” was done when she reported the fact that Pincher was “drunk” in the middle of the afternoon.
Elsewhere, senior Tories have lined up to defend the government’s response to the scandal.
Dominic Raab insisted in a tense exchange with Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday (5 July) that Pincher had not been found “guilty” in an investigation into his conduct.
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“The claim was found to be substantiated,” Raab said, telling Reid that “guilty is a very loaded term”.
Speaking to Sky News‘ Kay Burley, Raab said he spoke to Pincher in 2019 about his “inappropriate behaviour” and that he insisted it should “never be repeated”.