Chris Pincher suspended as Tory MP after complaint made following claims he drunkenly groped men

Chris Pincher suspended as Tory MP after complaint made following claims he drunkenly groped men 2
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Chris Pincher has tonight been suspended as a Conservative MP following claims he drunkenly groped men.

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The 52-year-old MP for Tamworth, who quit his role in charge of Tory party discipline yesterday, has faced allegations of sordid behaviour at a posh London members’ club.

His suspension as a Tory MP comes after a day of rowing among Conservatives over whether Mr Pincher should keep the party whip.

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The action to suspend the Tory whip from Mr Pincher – which was being demanded by prominent backbenchers – has now been taken after a formal complaint about him was made to Parliament’s harassment watchdog.

A spokeswoman for Conservative chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris said: ‘Having heard that a formal complaint has been made to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, 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.’

It was also announced tonight that Mr Pincher has been replaced as Tory deputy chief whip, the role he resigned yesterday, by former junior housing minister Kelly Tolhurst.

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A Downing Street source revealed Boris Johnson today spoke to a Tory MP who was with one of the men allegedly groped by Mr Pincher.

‘The account given was sufficiently disturbing to make the Prime Minister feel more troubled by all this,’ the source said.

Mr Johnson was said to have been waiting for a formal investigation to begin before suspending the Tory whip from Mr Pincher.

Chris Pincher has been suspended as a Tory MP after a formal complaint was made to Parliament's Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme

Chris Pincher has been suspended as a Tory MP after a formal complaint was made to Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme

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The PM had earlier been at war with the Tory party over whether Mr Pincher should be booted out.

Mr Pincher resigned as Mr Heaton Harris’s deputy last night, admitting he had ’embarrassed himself and other people’, after drinking too much at the elite Carlton Club in London on Wednesday.

A No10 spokesman earlier today suggested that, with Mr Pincher’s resignation as deputy chief whip, the PM considered the matter closed. 

But two of the party’s most senior female backbenchers demanded Mr Johnson take more robust action as further allegations against the MP emerged.

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Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tonight claimed Mr Johnson had been ‘dragged kicking and screaming into taking any action at all’ over Mr Pincher.

‘He just can’t be trusted to do the right thing,’ she said of the PM.

‘This whole scandal is yet more evidence of his appalling judgement. It’s time for Conservative MPs to show this chaotic PM the door before he can do any more damage.’

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: ‘It should never have taken Boris Johnson this long to act and withdraw the whip.

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‘Once again it seems Johnson has had to be forced into doing the right thing.

‘There can be no more cover ups or excuses. If this investigation confirms these serious allegations, Chris Pincher will surely have to resign.’

Tory former ministers Caroline Nokes and Karen Bradley, who both now chair select committees, today said the Conservative Party had to display a ‘zero tolerance policy’ on sexual misconduct and demanded Mr Pincher be stripped of the whip. 

Other critics pointed out that Neil Parish had resigned as Tiverton and Honiton MP for watching porn in the Commons – something less than an alleged sexual assault. 

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That resulted in the by-election last week where the Lib Dems overturned a Tory majority of more than 24,000 to take the seat.

Mr Pincher’s majority in Staffordshire is 20,000, but the seat was held by Labour for 13 years before he was elected in 2010. 

Mr Parish was also among those demanding tougher action today, telling LBC: ‘The first thing they did to me, and I made a huge mistake, is that they withdrew the whip. There cannot be double standards.’

Asked whether Mr Johnson believed the issue was done and dusted, a No 10 spokesman told reporters earlier today: ‘He’s (Mr Pincher) resigned that position so I’m not aware of any sort of Government investigation.’

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He added that whether to remain an MP was ‘a matter for him (Mr Pincher) as an individual.’

But in their letter, Ms Nokes and Ms Bradley said: ‘The party and, by extension, the Government are at risk of serious reputational damage by the current approach.’

One MP who was at the event at the Carlton Club on Wednesday claimed to the Guardian that Mr Pincher had been so drunk ‘he could barely stand up’. 

It also emerged he was handed the key role of enforcing party discipline in February, despite allegations about his own lack of self-control. 

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Mr Pincher apologised publicly and resigned as a whip before in 2017 after being accused by a Tory candidate of making an unwanted pass at him.

And Politco today identified Mr Pincher as the Tory MP said to have required a ‘minder’ to accompany him to events to keep him out of trouble, something denied by the Conservatives.

The 52-year-old resigned as Tory deputy chief whip last night, saying he had 'embarrassed himself and other people', after drinking too much at the elite Carlton Club in London.

The 52-year-old resigned as Tory deputy chief whip last night, saying he had ’embarrassed himself and other people’, after drinking too much at the elite Carlton Club in London. 

Boris Johnson had been told to strip the Tamworth MP of the Tory whip as it emerged he was handed the key role enforcing party discipline in February despite allegations about his own lack of self control

Boris Johnson had been told to strip the Tamworth MP of the Tory whip as it emerged he was handed the key role enforcing party discipline in February despite allegations about his own lack of self control

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Caroline Nokes

Karen Bradley

Former ministers Caroline Nokes and Karen Bradley, who both now chair Commons select committees, said the party had to display a ‘zero tolerance policy’ on sexual misconduct

The two senior female Tories today wrote to Mr Johnson demanding Pincher have the whip removed pending an investigation

The two senior female Tories today wrote to Mr Johnson demanding Pincher have the whip removed pending an investigation

Mr Pincher's majority in his Staffordshire constituency is 20,000, but the seat was held by Labour for 13 years before he was elected in 2010.

 Mr Pincher’s majority in his Staffordshire constituency is 20,000, but the seat was held by Labour for 13 years before he was elected in 2010.

Pictured: The incident took place in the exclusive Carlton Club in London

Pictured: The incident took place in the exclusive Carlton Club in London

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Chris Pincher suspended as Tory MP after complaint made following claims he drunkenly groped men 3

The ‘Poundshop Weinstein’ with a history of inappropriate behaviour  

Chris Pincher’s career has been dogged by inappropriate behaviour towards men, especially when he has held roles overseeing party discipline. 

His resignation as deputy chief whip is the second time he has had to quit a disciplinary role over allegations of sexual misconduct towards men.

In 2017 the unmarried MP stepped down as an assistant whip and referred himself to police after The Mail on Sunday revealed how he made a pass at former Olympic rower and Tory activist Alex Story while dressed in a bathrobe.

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Pincher (right) was sent in to handle party discipline in February after running a 'shadow whipping campaign' for the PM. But reports today suggest that he was not given the top job of chief whip because of allegations about his conduct.

Pincher (right) was sent in to handle party discipline in February after running a ‘shadow whipping campaign’ for the PM. But reports today suggest that he was not given the top job of chief whip because of allegations about his conduct.

Mr Pincher is said to have attempted to untuck Mr Story’s shirt after persuading him to come back to his London home. Mr Story, who competed in the 1996 Olympics, said Mr Pincher poured him a whisky, massaged his neck and whispered: ‘You’ll go far in the Conservative Party.’

Mr Pincher then disappeared into another room and ‘returned in a bathrobe like a poundshop Harvey Weinstein, with his chest and belly sticking out’, at which point Mr Story, who was 26 at the time, left.

Having referred himself to both the police and the Conservative Party complaints procedure, he was brought back by Theresa May as deputy chief whip in January 2018.

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When Mr Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019, he was moved to the Foreign Office as minister for Europe and the Americas before returning to the whips office for a third time.

Walsall-born Pincher has been a Tory since he was 18, having previously claimed he was politicised by the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike. 

He worked for Sir Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership team in 2001 and made several attempts to win a seat for the Tories before taking Tamworth in 2010. It had been held by Labour since 1997.

He was sent in to handle party discipline in February after running a ‘shadow whipping campaign’ for the PM as he successfully fought off attempts to get rid of him over Partygate in the winter.

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But reports today suggest that he was not given the top job of chief whip (which went to Chris Heaton-Harris) because of allegations about his conduct. But he was still given a senior role. 

He has also faced criticism over non-sexual behaviour.  In 2019 Tory MP Johnny Mercer received a ‘full and unreserved apology’ from the then  Chief Whip Julian Smith after Pincher was alleged to have tried to persuade an ex-serviceman to provide ‘dirt’ on the former Army captain.

The Daily Mail revealed how Mr Pincher had been accused of seeking damaging information on Mr Mercer after meeting a former colleague of his for a drink.

Downing Street insisted Boris Johnson was not aware of specific allegations against Pincher before he appointed him as deputy chief whip in February.

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‘You’ll be aware of the process that ministerial appointments go through and in the absence of any formal complaints, it was not appropriate to stop an appointment on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations,’ the spokesman said.

He added that ministerial appointments are vetted by the Cabinet Office propriety and ethics team.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart appeared to be reluctant to defend Pincher, a former Europe and housing minister. 

On the media round this morning he suggested that Mr Pincher could lose the whip by the end of the day and voiced his ‘frustration’ at the conveyor belt of sleaze engulfing the party. 

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‘Let’s let today play out, let the chief whip do his duty today, and then I think we might be having a very different conversation as the day goes on,’ he told Sky News. 

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said she believes Mr Pincher should have the whip suspended, saying the Government’s response to the allegations are a ‘total disgrace’.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘These allegations are really serious. This is about sexual assault. It comes after we’ve had the Wakefield and Tiverton by-elections, which were also as a result of serious incidents involving Conservative MPs.

‘So, the idea that the response that we’ve seen that the Prime Minister thinks he’s done the decent thing by resigning and there’s no need for an investigation, well, that’s a total disgrace.

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‘The whip’s office are responsible for discipline and standards among Conservative MPs. Boris Johnson chose this MP to be deputy chief whip because he was a friend and ally, despite the fact that he had to resign five years ago from the whip’s office due to similar-sounding allegations.

‘Of course, there has to be a full investigation now and, of course, he should have the whip suspended while that investigation takes place.’

In his letter to the PM last night, Mr Pincher said: ‘Last night I drank far too much.

‘I’ve embarrassed myself and other people which is the last thing I want to do and for that I apologise to you and to those concerned.

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‘I think the right thing to do in the circumstances is for me to resign as Deputy Chief Whip. I owe it to you and the people I’ve caused upset to, to do this.

‘I want to assure you that you will continue to have my full support from the back benches, and I wish you all the best as you deal with aftershocks of Covid and the challenges of international inflation.

‘It has been the honour of my life to have served in Her Majesty’s Government.’

The Sun reported that Mr Pincher was drinking at the Tory Party private members club – the Carlton Club – in Piccadilly when he is said to have assaulted two fellow guests.

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The resignation of Mr Pincher in such dramatic circumstances is a further blow for the PM who has been beset with allegations of misconduct over lockdown parties in Downing Street.

The MP for Tamworth was appointed alongside chief whip Mr Heaton-Harris last February to strengthen party discipline amid unrest among MPs over the way the Government was being run.

It is the second time he has quit the whips’ office, having resigned as a junior whip in November 2017 following a complaint that he made an unwanted pass at the former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story.

He is alleged to have tried to untuck the shirt of Mr Story after persuading him to come back to his London home, as well as massaging his neck while saying: ‘You will go far in the Conservative Party.’

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Mr Story told the Mail on Sunday that at one point Mr Pincher left the room, saying ‘let me just slip into something more comfortable’, before returning in a bathrobe ‘like a pound shop Harvey Weinstein’.

He was cleared of wrongdoing by a Conservative party probe.

Having referred himself to both the police and the Conservative Party complaints procedure, he was brought back by Theresa May as deputy chief whip in January 2018.

When Mr Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019 he was moved to the Foreign Office as minister for Europe and the Americas before returning to the whips office for a third time.

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His departure comes just days after Oliver Dowden quit as party co-chairman in the wake of the Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton by-election losses.

It leaves Mr Johnson – who returned from the Nato summit on Thursday after nine days out of the country – with another headache with two crucial roles to fill.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart appeared to be reluctant to defend the 52-year-old, suggesting he could lose the whip by the end of the day and voicing his 'frustration' at the conveyor belt of sleaze engulfing the party.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart appeared to be reluctant to defend the 52-year-old, suggesting he could lose the whip by the end of the day and voicing his ‘frustration’ at the conveyor belt of sleaze engulfing the party.

Conservatives months of sleaze turmoil

APRIL 3

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David Warburton has the Conservative whip withdrawn following the emergence of allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use. The Member of Parliament for Somerton and Frome in Somerset faces a parliamentary investigation after being accused of abusing the drug and inappropriately touching three women.

April 30

Tory Neil Parish resigns his Tiverton and Honiton seat after watching pornography in the Commons. Farmer Mr Parish first said he accidentally viewed one X-rated video when browsing for tractors, before later doing so deliberately in the Commons chamber.

MAY 17

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An unnamed Tory MP is arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual offences spanning seven years. The man in his 50s, allegedly committed the offences between 2002 and 2009 in London.

He was also arrested on allegations of indecent assault, abuse of a position of trust and misconduct in a public office, according to the Metropolitan police.

Conservative Party whips have asked the unnamed MP to stay away from Parliament during the investigation, but unions last night said he should be formally suspended to protect staff.

MAY 23

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Imran Ahmad Khan is jailed for 18 months for sexually assaulting a boy aged 15.

Khan, 48, plied the youngster with gin, tried to persuade him to watch pornography and then groped him in his bed 14 years ago at the victim’s family home in Staffordshire.

The Wakefield MP was expelled from the Conservative Party following his conviction and resigned his seat, triggering a by-election won by Labour.

His victim told Southwark Crown Court that he still struggles with intimacy and being touched due to the ordeal.

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Mr Pincher’s resignation is the latest in a series of sleaze scandals to hit the Tory party in recent months.

In April, David Warburton had the Conservative whip withdrawn following the emergence of allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use. The MP for Somerton and Frome faces a parliamentary investigation after being accused of abusing the drug and inappropriately touching three women.

Later that month, Conservative MP Neil Parish resigned his Tiverton and Honiton seat after watching pornography in the Commons.

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Farmer Mr Parish first said he accidentally viewed one X-rated video when browsing for tractors, before later doing so deliberately in the Commons chamber.

Then last month, an unnamed Tory MP was arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual offences spanning seven years. The man in his 50s, allegedly committed the offences between 2002 and 2009 in London.

He was also arrested on allegations of indecent assault, abuse of a position of trust and misconduct in a public office, according to the Metropolitan police.

Conservative Party whips have asked the unnamed MP to stay away from Parliament during the investigation, but unions last night said he should be formally suspended to protect staff.

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Also in May, Ahmad Khan was jailed for 18 months for sexually assaulting a boy aged 15.

Khan, 48, plied the youngster with gin, tried to persuade him to watch pornography and then groped him in his bed 14 years ago at the victim’s family home in Staffordshire.

The Wakefield MP was expelled from the Conservative Party following his conviction and resigned his seat, triggering a by-election won by Labour.

His victim told Southwark Crown Court that he still struggles with intimacy and being touched due to the ordeal.

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The Carlton Club, where Mr Pincher allegedly groped two men, is a private members-only venue set up by senior Tories in 1832 where Conservative leaders are traditionally given lifetime membership which was only open to men until a rule change in 2008 under David Cameron. 

Prior to that, the only full female member was Margaret Thatcher, who was given honorary membership when she became party leader in 1975.

The club is a popular spot for Conservative MPs to drink after Parliament due to its exclusive membership which only permits members and guests of members.

Mr Pincher is not expected to lose the party whip so will stay on as a Conservative MP, avoiding a by-election for the party.

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Chris was first elected as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Tamworth in May 2010, and was re-elected in December 2019 with a majority of 19,364.

The exclusive members club that finally let women join…in 2008 

The Carlton Club is a private members’ club for the Conservative establishment, housed in an elegant Georgian building in St James’s Street, London.

Membership can be gained only through nomination and election from existing members. The club has a long association with the Conservative Party, having served as its original home after being founded by Tory peers, including the Duke of Wellington, back in 1832.

The club describes its membership history as ‘a badge of allegiance to the Conservative Party’. There is automatic membership offered to every leader of the Conservative Party and loyalty is still considered a necessity.

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Those who waver face being expelled, as Ann Widdecombe was in 2020 for shifting to the Brexit Party.

In 1990, the building was targeted by an IRA bomb. Lord Kaberry died the next year from injuries he sustained.

Women were not entitled to full membership until 2008, when members voted to let them in. ‘I’m just sorry that it took them this long to join the 21st century,’ former Conservative prime minister Theresa May said at the time.

Under the club’s strict dress code, men must wear a tailored jacket and formal trousers with a collared shirt and tie. Women must wear ‘commensurate business or formal day wear’.

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