UK Tories mired in new scandal over MP’s drunken behaviour

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures ahead of a meeting of The North Atlantic Council during the NATO summit at the Ifema congress centre in Madrid, on June 30, 2022. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

LONDON, July 1, 2022 (AFP) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a fresh political headache Friday following the resignation of the deputy chief whip of his ruling Conservatives over allegations he drunkenly groped two men.

In a letter to Johnson sent late Thursday, Tory MP Chris Pincher said he was quitting his post after he drank “far too much” and “embarrassed myself and other people” the previous evening.

Britain’s Chief Whip Chris Heaton-Harris (L) and Christopher Pincher, Minister if State fir Housing, leave from 10 Downing Street in London on February 8, 2022. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

Numerous reports said he had also been accused of groping two men in front of others at the private members Carlton Club in central London, prompting complaints to the Conservative party.

His departure from the whips office and Johnson’s embattled government is the latest in a string of sexual impropriety scandals involving Tory MPs in recent months.

It also follows a catalogue of controversies to hit Johnson himself, including the so-called “Partygate” affair that led his own lawmakers to trigger a no-confidence vote in him last month which he narrowly survived.

The resignation leaves Johnson with another post to fill in his senior ranks after the chairman of the Conservatives quit last month after the party lost two by-elections.

A Downing Street source told British media that Pincher would face no further action from the party and would remain a Conservative MP.

But that prompted an immediate backlash, with Johnson facing calls to suspend him from the parliamentary party and launch a further internal investigation into his behaviour.

Pincher only took up his latest role of deputy chief whip — which involves enforcing party discipline — in February.

However, it is the second time he has quit the whips office, after he resigned as a junior whip in November 2017 following a complaint that he made an unwanted pass at a former Olympic rower and potential Conservative election candidate.

In his resignation letter Thursday, Pincher said quitting was “the right thing to do in the circumstances”, arguing “I owe it to you and the people I’ve caused upset to”.

“I want to assure you that you will continue to have my full support from the back benches,” he added.

The main opposition Labour party said the episode showed “how far standards in public life have been degraded on Boris Johnson’s watch”.

“Boris Johnson has serious questions to answer about why Chris Pincher was given this role in the first place and how he can remain a Conservative MP,” Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said.

“The Conservative Party is so mired in sleaze and scandal that it is totally unable to tackle the challenges facing the British people,” she added.

Johnson only returned to Britain on Thursday after nine days of globetrotting that saw him attend three international summits in Rwanda, Germany and then Spain.

He has been seeking to move beyond the scandals and controversies that have plagued him and his government since last summer amid persistent calls for his resignation.

© Agence France-Presse