Chris Pincher quits as deputy chief whip after claims he drunkenly groped two men

·5 min read
Chris Pincher - Richard Townshend
Chris Pincher - Richard Townshend

Boris Johnson’s deputy chief whip has resigned following claims that he drunkenly groped two men at a private members’ club in London.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Chris Pincher said that he “drank far too much” at an event on Wednesday evening and had “embarrassed myself and other people”.

It is the second time Mr Pincher, the Conservative MP for Tamworth, has quit the Tory Whips Office over allegations of sexual impropriety. However, it is understood that he will be allowed to continue to sit as a Conservative in the House of Commons.

The Conservative Party was under pressure over the decision on Thursday, with Labour calling for Mr Pincher to be stripped of the whip.

If a by-election was triggered, it would heap fresh political pressure on Mr Johnson, who has faced renewed calls to stand down after losing two Tory seats last month.

Mr Pincher was made deputy chief whip in February after playing a key part in the operation to save Mr Johnson from a Tory plot to oust him.

Chris Pincher (right) was made deputy chief whip to Chris Heaton-Harris - Aaron Chown/PA wire
Chris Pincher (right) was made deputy chief whip to Chris Heaton-Harris - Aaron Chown/PA wire

On Thursday, The Sun reported that Mr Pincher was accused of assaulting two fellow guests at the Carlton Club, a private club with close ties to the Conservative Party.

It was claimed several Tory MPs got in contact with the Whips Office to complain about his behaviour and suggested his removal from the post.

In his letter to Mr Johnson, a copy of which has been seen by The Telegraph, Mr Pincher said he would be resigning and appeared to address the allegations.

He wrote: “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.

“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.”

There was no immediate response from the Prime Minister.

On Thursday, it appeared Mr Pincher would keep the Tory whip, meaning he will continue to sit as a Conservative MP.

However, Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, said:

Mr Pincher is the latest Tory MP to face claims of sexual impropriety in recent months.

In April, The Telegraph revealed that Neil Parish was the MP accused of watching pornography in the Commons. He initially kept the Tory whip and was not named by the party.

However, after he was named, he resigned as the MP for Tiverton and Honiton – triggering a by-election that the Tories lost to the Liberal Democrats earlier this month.

Mr Pincher, first elected as an MP in 2010, won re-election in the 2019 election with a majority of around 20,000 votes.

While that makes his Tamworth  seat a solid Conservative constituency, the majority is less than the one the Tories had in Tiverton and Honiton.

Imran Ahmad Khan resigned as the Conservative MP for Wakefield after being found guilty of sexually assaulting the teenager in 2008. The by-election for that seat was then won by Labour last month.

It is not the first time Mr Pincher has faced sexual impropriety claims. In 2017, he was accused of making a pass at Alex Story, a former Olympic rower and Tory activist.

He was accused of massaging Mr Story’s neck, untucking his shirt and saying: “You’ll go far in the Conservative Party.”

Mr Pincher denied wrongdoing, resigned from the Whips Office and referred himself to police. A Conservative Party investigation cleared him of wrongdoing.

Key role in plot to save Boris Johnson

The role Mr Pincher played in keeping Mr Johnson in office could complicate the political fallout for Downing Street.

In late January and early February, he was instrumental in an operation run by supportive Tory MPs to save Mr Johnson’s  premiership amid calls for him to resign over allegations of lockdown-breaking parties in government buildings.

The group, described as overseeing a “shadow whipping operation”, persuaded MPs who had been critical to become public supporters of the Prime Minister. It also arranged for one-on-one meetings between Mr Johnson and rebel MPs.

The drive proved successful. Mr Pincher was then given the position of deputy chief whip, although  it was reported at the time he wanted to be chief whip.

The Whips Office is in charge of overseeing MPs’ behaviour and ensuring they vote in support of the party line, meaning they act as enforcers for the Prime Minister.

A Tory source said Mr Pincher will not face any inquiry or disciplinary process, adding: “The PM thinks he’s done the decent thing by resigning. There is no need for an investigation and no need to suspend the whip.”