Chris Pincher was the man Boris Johnson put in charge of investigating sex allegations and keeping discipline in his ruling Conservative party. Now Pincher has reportedly been accused in more than a dozen new reports of alleged groping, touching, and inappropriate advances. The hideous cavalcade of allegations against Pincher has piled pressure on Johnson’s administration, which already had something of an accountability issue.
The latest rounds of revelations about Pincher, which he denies, began last week. A report in The Sun said Pincher had gotten drunk at a private members club in London and groped two men. This would be inexcusable for a lawmaker at any juncture of their career, but—if proven—it would be made even more shocking by Pincher’s role within the government; he was deputy chief whip, a job which, among other things, involves maintaining discipline within his party and looking into allegations of sexual misconduct against its politicians. “Last night I drank far too much,” Pincher wrote in a letter to Boris Johnson resigning from the role. “I’ve embarrassed myself and other people which is the last thing I want to do and for that I apologise to you and those concerned.”
Most of the allegations are anonymous and there have been no known reports of police investigations into the claims.
It was galling but perhaps not entirely surprising that Boris Johnson—a man who has a few sex scandals of his own under his belt—initially allowed Pincher to continue serving as a Tory lawmaker. It was only after 24 hours of the groping scandal being made public that Johnson suspended Pincher from the party on Friday afternoon, when an attendant parliamentary investigation into his behavior was also announced. But if that was supposed to put a lid on the affair, an explosion of new allegations over the weekend has blown the whole thing open again.
In the last few days, at least 13 fresh allegations of sexual misconduct and other abuses of power against Pincher spanning a ten year period have been reported in the British media. The earliest was said to have taken place in 2013, when a parliamentary researcher said Pincher threatened to report her to her boss after she tried to stop Pincher pestering a young man at the Conservative Party convention. That same year, another man says they woke up to find Pincher on top of them in his London flat after a night out. One charity worker even told The Sun that he was being groped by Pincher in a photograph of them taken in 2018. Another report on Monday from someone who says they were groped by Pincher in 2021 is now planning to go to the police with his allegation. And one alleged male victim says he was groped by Pincher on two occasions, the most recent having taken place in June this year. Pincher has denied all the allegations and says he’s seeking professional medical help.
The stories of wrongdoing stretch back even further than the reports to emerge over the weekend. In 2001, Pincher was reported to have been inappropriate towards Olympic rower and Tory activist Alex Story. In a public account of the incident in 2017, the athlete compared Pincher to Harvey Weinstein when describing the incident, in which Story said Pincher wore a bathrobe, massaged his neck, and whispered in his ear: “You’ll go far in the Conservative Party.”
The blizzard of chilling accusations has also raised questions as to how Boris Johnson allowed someone with a reputation like Pincher's to take a key role in government. “The prime minister was not aware of any specific allegation before the appointment was made, and there was no basis to stop the appointment,” a spokesman for Johnson told Politico last week. But two unnamed Tory lawmakers told The Guardian they’d raised concerns with the whips office about Pincher back in February of this year. And Johnson’s former advisor Dominic Cummings tweeted Saturday that Johnson would “repeatedly refer to him laughingly in No 10 as ‘Pincher by name, pincher by nature’ long before appointing him.”
Depressingly, this is just the latest scandal to rock Johnson’s party. The prime minister himself has been the subject of salacious stories recently after truly shuddersome details emerged of a politician walking in on Johnson and his then-mistress-now-wife Carrie in a “compromising situation” in his office while he was foreign secretary in 2018. And Johnson’s party recently suffered a crushing double-election defeat which was in part brought about because one of his lawmakers, Neil Parish, was caught watching porn in the House of Commons (Parish claimed he was browsing for tractors when he stumbled across the x-rated video). And of course the sex allegations have come while the U.K. is still reeling from the partygate scandal, in which Johnson and his staff were found to have broken their own pandemic lockdown rules to attend alcohol-fuelled parties in Downing Street.