Johnson's Tories Embroiled in Sleaze Again as Pincher Resigns

  • In World
  • 2022-07-01 12:06:06Z
  • By Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson is facing another backlash over sleaze and misconduct in his Conservative Party, after one of his political enforcers resigned over an incident involving excessive drinking.

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Chris Pincher, who Johnson appointed in February as Tory deputy chief whip -- despite him quitting a similar role in 2017 after allegations he had made unwanted sexual advances -- said in his resignation letter he "embarrassed" himself after drinking too much on Wednesday evening.

The Sun newspaper reported that he allegedly assaulted two fellow guests at a private club. Pincher did not respond to a request for comment, and his letter did not refer to the allegation. The prime minister accepted his resignation, though unusually he did not write a formal letter to Pincher.

It's the latest in a string of scandals that have cost Johnson's party in opinion polls and dented its majority in Parliament. Two recent special elections were triggered by MPs' wrongdoing -- Imran Ahmad Khan was jailed for sexual assault and Neil Parish resigned after being caught watching pornography in Parliament -- and the Conservative Party lost both.

Such incidents have raised questions about culture and ethical standards in Johnson's party, especially as the prime minister has struggled to move past the partygate scandal over illegal gatherings in Downing Street during the pandemic. He was fined by police, making him the first sitting prime minister found to have broken the law, and barely survived a Tory confidence vote.

Political Judgment

The Pincher case is likely to further damage Johnson, given the prime minister promoted him to try to shore up support during partygate. The prime minister's spokesman, Jamie Davies, told reporters on Friday Johnson was not aware of "specific allegations" against Pincher at the time of his appointment.

"There was no basis to stop the appointment," Davies said.

Pincher remains a Conservative MP, though pressure is building on Johnson to remove him from the parliamentary party. That would see him sit as an independent. A special election in Pincher's Tamworth seat near Birmingham, where he holds a majority of about 20,000 votes, would likely depend on whether he decides to resign as an MP.

'Serious Questions'

"There's quite serious questions about how he ever ended up in that job in the first place, because it's not the first time that allegations have been made against him, and not the first time he's had to resign," Ellie Reeves, the opposition Labour Party's shadow justice minister, told Times Radio.

But even losing Pincher as an enforcer will be a blow to Johnson on his return a string of international summits. Though he survived the confidence vote, there is residual anger over his performance as leader and Tory MPs are becoming increasingly alarmed at the government's response to the UK's deepening cost-of-living crisis.

He now has a party management headache and the prospect of a fresh cycle of media headlines focused on Tory bad behavior. The UK premier still needs to fill the vacant post of Conservative Party chairman -- Oliver Dowden stepped down last week after the election defeats -- and Pincher's departure means one less trusted Johnson loyalist in his government.

Elected as an MP in 2010, Pincher has served in both Johnson and Theresa May's administrations. His 2017 resignation came after it was alleged he had made an unwanted advance on a male Conservative activist. Pincher referred himself to the police, and was ultimately cleared by a Tory investigation.

"All of these examples, do they make pretty reading? Of course they don't," Cabinet minister Simon Hart told BBC radio during the government's media round on Friday. "It is profoundly depressing when these things go wrong in a large and complicated workplace."

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©2022 Bloomberg L.P.


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