Chris Pincher seeking professional help after drunken groping claims

·5 min read
<span>Photograph: Russell Hart/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Russell Hart/Alamy

Chris Pincher has said he is seeking professional help following claims that he drunkenly groped two men.

The former deputy chief whip, who resigned following the allegations, said he respected the prime minister’s decision to suspend the whip and would “cooperate fully” with an inquiry into his behaviour.

He said he was “truly sorry” and hoped to return to his duties as an MP “as soon as possible”.

In a statement, the Tamworth MP said: “I respect the prime minister’s decision to suspend the whip whilst an inquiry is under way, and I will cooperate fully with it. As I told the prime minister, I drank far too much on Wednesday night, embarrassing myself and others and I am truly sorry for the upset I caused.”

He added: “The stresses of the last few days, coming on top of those over the last several months, have made me accept that I will benefit from professional medical support. I am in the process of seeking that now, and I hope to be able to return to my constituency duties as soon as possible.”

It comes as one man who accused the MP of groping him said he had been left “furious” and “shell-shocked” that Boris Johnson failed to suspend Pincher immediately.

Speaking to the Sunday Times on condition of anonymity, the man, who is in his mid-twenties, alleges that shortly after buying a round of drinks in the club’s Macmillian bar, Pincher “grabbed my arse and then slowly … moved his hand down the front of my groin”.

The man, who said it was the first time he had met the MP, claims he “froze a bit” and it “ended after about two or three seconds. It was a very bizarre thing”.

The Sunday Times said the man’s account was corroborated by an MP at the club.

At first, the man said he wasn’t going to take the matter further thinking it was “something that happens in Westminster”. But he was left “angry by the way No 10 have dealt with it” and was “furious” and “shell-shocked” when he found out that Pincher was initially going to keep the whip.

Pincher has been suspended as a Conservative MP and faces an investigation by parliament’s complaints watchdog following the allegations.

His comments came as the Conservative party and Johnson faced mounting pressure on Saturday over the scandal.

The shadow armed forces minister Luke Pollard claimed parliament was “not a safe place to work” and called for higher standards in politics.

“We need a wholesale change in this because, I’m afraid, parliament is not a safe place to work as it should be for so many of the young people in particular who work there,” the Labour MP told Sky News.

“We need to be setting higher standards than we have at the moment, but I’m afraid the culture is set from the top, and the prime minister has been so very clear that standards in public life – decency, integrity, honesty – don’t apply.”

Meanwhile, the prime minister faced questions over why he delayed suspending the Tory whip from Pincher.

Pincher stepped down from his position in the Conservative whips’ office, where his responsibilities included maintaining party discipline, on Thursday.

Following a formal complaint made against him to parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), he will now have to sit as an independent outside the group.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson denied on Friday that Johnson had known about “specific” claims before appointing Pincher as deputy chief whip in February. However, a No 10 source said Johnson “probably” knew about rumours over his sexual conduct.

Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former chief aide, accused the prime minister of “lying again” and claimed that Johnson referred to the MP as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” long before appointing him.

The Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen suggested that Downing Street was guilty of “double standards” as a result of its approach to handling the Pincher scandal in comparison with that of Neil Parish, who stood down as an MP after admitting to watching pornography in the House of Commons.

The MP for North West Leicestershire told BBC Newsnight: “Neil was a very independent-minded Conservative backbencher; he never really sought patronage and he did hold ministers to account.

“Chris Pincher is seen as an arch-loyalist and I think that, to most people, will be the reason for the difference in their treatment. And that’s not tenable either.”

Caroline Nokes and Karen Bradley, two senior Tory MPs who chair Commons select committees, called for Johnson to bring in a “zero-tolerance” policy over sexual misconduct claims.

In his resignation letter, Pincher apologised for his behaviour at the Carlton Club in Piccadilly, London. “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,” he said.

The scandal marks the sixth involving alleged sexual misconduct under the government of Johnson, who faces scrutiny over how much he knew about allegations against Pincher, who also resigned from the whips’ office in 2017 after claims he acted like a “pound shop Harvey Weinstein”. A party investigation cleared him of wrongdoing.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said the prime minister had been “dragged kicking and screaming” into taking action. The scandal, she added, was “yet more evidence of his appalling judgment”.

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