Downing Street named Tory MP to top job despite sexual misconduct allegations – POLITICO

LONDON — Downing Street was made aware of allegations of sexual misconduct against a now-disgraced MP before appointing him to a key government post, several people familiar with the matter have told POLITICO.

Chris Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip late Thursday night after the Sun newspaper alleged he groped two men at a private club. In a resignation letter to the Prime Minister, he admitted to « drinking far too much » and « embarrassing himself and other people ».

A Downing Street official said Pincher should face no further disciplinary action and would retain party whip, allowing him to continue as a Tory MP.

MPs and government aides revealed the No 10 had been aware of concerns over his behavior since the start of the year.

A group of Tory MPs intervened in February, just as Johnson was carrying out a mini-shuffle of his leadership team, to prevent Pincher from getting the job of chief whip – a crucial role responsible for discipline and welfare in the party – according to two MPs and a government official.

« He [Pincher] was absolutely livid when he wasn’t made chief,” an aide said. ‘As soon as his name was in the running people came into Number 10, including MPs, with new allegations about what he had done.

Yet Johnson still appointed the longtime MP for Tamworth as deputy chief whip.

A No 10 official said the appointment was only made after concerns about him were raised with Steve Barclay, Boris Johnson’s chief of staff. The reports were reviewed by the Cabinet Office’s property and ethics team, who concluded they should not rule him out of the job.

Incredibly, the incident marks the second time Pincher has been forced to resign as whip, after he was accused in 2017 of making a drunken pass to former Olympic rower Alex Story. Pincher went to the police after the incident and was later cleared of any wrongdoing by a Conservative Party investigation.

Pincher was instrumental in bolstering support for the prime minister last winter when the Partygate scandal was at its height, and was effectively rewarded with the post of deputy chief whip.

On Thursday, Downing Street said Pincher could stay on as a Tory MP because he had « done the right thing » by stepping down as deputy chief whip.

But Johnson is under pressure to take tougher action as his party struggles to draw a line under a string of recent sordid scandals – including a serious conviction.

In April, Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old in 2008. Another MP, Neil Parish, resigned after he admitted watching pornography in the House of Commons bedroom. municipalities.

An unnamed MP is currently under arrest on suspicion of rape, while David Warburton, the MP for Somerton and Frome, has been suspended from the party pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.

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