Boris Johnson and Number 10 have been accused of lying over the Chris Pincher sexual misconduct scandal, with the former head of the Foreign Office claiming the Prime Minister knew about formal complaints against the MP.
Lord Simon McDonald today wrote to parliament’s standards watchdog to say that Johnson received an in-person briefing on an investigation into Pincher several years ago, despite Downing Street claims that the Prime Minister did not know any “specific allegations” about the ex-deputy chief whip.
Pincher resigned on Thursday as Johnson’s deputy chief whip – a position responsible for party discipline – after he allegedly groped two men at an event last week and has now been suspended from sitting as a Conservative MP.
Johnson’s official spokesman yesterday told journalists the Prime Minister was aware of “reports and speculation over the years” that Pincher had been accused of sexual misconduct, but that “in the absence of any formal complaint it wasn’t deemed appropriate to stop the appointment because of any unsubstantiated allegations”.
McDonald wrote: “This is not true. In the summer of 2019, shortly after he was appointed minister of state for the Foreign Office, a group of officials complained to me about Mr Pincher’s behaviour.
“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.”
If McDonald’s claims are true then Number 10 officials and ministers have been sent out to make knowingly false claims about the Prime Minister over the past few days.
A leading Tory rebel told City A.M. that this latest scandal will “ultimately” topple the Prime Minister, after he survived a confidence vote last month.
The Conservative party has a rule in place to stop leaders facing more than one leadership challenge every 12 months, however there is a serious possibility this could be overturned by the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said that McDonald’s letter means Johnson’s “desperate attempts to cover up what he knew about sexual assault complaints against Chris Pincher before appointing him have been blown out the water”.
“It is now clear that the prime minister knew about the seriousness of these complaints, but decided to promote this man to a senior position in government anyway. He refused to act and then lied about what he knew.”
Pincher had the Tory whip suspended on Friday, after it was initially decided he would be able to remain in the party, and is the subject of a parliamentary investigation.
A string of further allegations of sexual misconduct have emerged over the weekend, with as many as 13 people making accusations against the MP.
Former Number 10 aide Dominic Cummings said that Johnson once referred to the MP as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature”.
Pincher was appointed as deputy chief whip in February this year, and was a housing minister before that.