·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
Mon, 4 July 2022 at 6:13 pm
Jess Phillips has accused Boris Johnson of “not giving a toss” about previous allegations of sexual misconduct by Tory MP Chris Pincher.
Pincher resigned from his post as deputy chief whip late on Thursday night claiming he “drank far too much” and “embarrassed” himself in front of other people that evening.
The incident involved Pincher allegedly groping two men in at the Carlton Club, a Tory party private members club in London Piccadilly, according to reports in The Sun.
The PM has since faced widespread criticism over his handling of the incident, with questions raised as to how far Johnson was aware of previous allegations of sexual misconduct before hiring Pincher as a minister.
In the aftermath of Pincher’s resignation, multiple MPs claimed concerns about Pincher’s sexually inappropriate behaviour were an open secret in Westminster, with others saying they had raised the issue with No 10.
Last week, the PM’s spokesperson said Johnson had not been aware of “specific allegations” about Pincher before appointing him as deputy chief whip, a welfare role.
By Monday, Number 10 admitted Johnson had been aware of speculation about Pincher’s sexual misconduct, and knew about previous “media reports” at the time of his appointment to government.
“The prime minister was aware of media reports that others had seen over the years, and some allegations that were resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint,” said Johnson’s spokesperson.
“But, like I said, at the time of appointment [he] was not aware of any specific allegations.”
Jess Phillips, Labour minister for women and girls, wrote on Twitter:
“You’d be sacked as minister if you said you didn’t agree with PM.
“In the real world this is encouraged. Johnson kept Pincher because a) he doesn’t give a toss that he’s gropey; b) he looked at risk and thought, I’ll get away with it as usual; c) he’s his mate and strokes his ego.”
Phillips’ remarks also come after Johnson failed to immediately remove the whip from Pincher.
On Friday afternoon, almost 24 hours after his resignation, a spokesperson for chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris announced Pincher had finally been suspended from the Tory party.
“Having heard that a formal complaint has been made to the ICGS, the PM has agreed with the chief whip that the whip should be suspended from Chris Pincher while the investigation is ongoing,” the spokesperson said.
“We will not pre-judge that investigation. We urge colleagues and the media to respect that process.”
Elsewhere, the prime minister has been accused of joking about previous allegations about Pincher.
“If [Johnson] didn’t know about Pincher as he’s claiming, why did he repeatedly refer to him laughingly in No 10 as ‘pincher by name pincher by nature’ long before appointing him…?” said Johnson’s former special adviser, Dominic Cummings, on Saturday.
Number 10 has has failed to deny the allegations.
Pincher’s suspension makes him the fifth Conservative MP this year to be embroiled in sexual assault allegations.