MPs vented their fury in the Commons (Photo: Parliament TV)
Furious Tory MPs told ministers to consider their positions today as the Chris Pincher scandal engulfed the government.
Conservative backbenchers were in open revolt as they vented their anger over the allegations surrounding the former deputy chief whip.
Pincher was suspended as a Conservative Party MP last week over allegations he groped two men at a private members’ club in London.
Downing Street has also been accused of misleading the public about what Boris Johnson knew before the Tamworth MP was made deputy chief whip in February.
The row deepened on Tuesday morning when a former top civil servant claimed Johnson was briefed “in person” about a sexual harassment complaint against Pincher being upheld when he was a Foreign Office minister.
In a bombshell letter, Lord Simon McDonald disputed Downing Street’s claim that the prime minister was not aware of “specific allegations” against Pincher.
The revelations have infuriated Tory MPs and emboldened the rebels’ push to oust Johnson.
A number of MPs publicly voiced their concerns during a Commons’ exchange in response to an urgent question from Labour over Pincher.
Conservative MP William Wragg said the government was widely regarded as having lost its “sense of direction”.
The moment Will Wragg urged Cabinet ministers to resign over the Chris Pincher scandal
"The question that faces the Government... is for them to consider what they are being asked to say in public, which changes seemingly by the hour" pic.twitter.com/MfRPmYQF0Z
— Dominic Penna (@DominicPenna) July 5, 2022
Wragg, a critic of Johnson, said ministers should ask themselves if “they can any longer tolerate being part of a government which, for better or worse, is widely regarded of having lost its sense of direction”.
He told the Commons: “The question that faces the government...is for them to consider what they are being asked to say in public, which changes seemingly by the hour, and I would ask them to consider the common sense of decency that I know the vast, vast majority of them have and ask themselves if they can any longer tolerate being part of a government which, for better or worse, is widely regarded of having lost its sense of direction.
“It is for them to consider their positions, this is not a question of systems, it is a question of political judgment and that political judgment cannot be delegated.”
Cabinet office minister Michael Ellis told him he was “quite wrong” and added: “This is a government that knows its direction and that is to serve the British people in dealing with the issues that matter to them.”
Conservative former minister John Penrose asked when the minister would finally say “enough is enough” and no longer defend the government. (Photo: Kirsty O'Connor - PA Images via Getty Images)
John Penrose, who quit as the PM’s anti-corruption tsar last month, asked when the minister would finally say “enough is enough” and no longer defend the government.
Penrose said: “It is clear from Lord McDonald’s letter today that Number 10 have not been honest in what they have said, that is what Lord McDonald says.
“One of the seven Nolan principles is honesty. Number 10 was previously accused without rebuttal of lacking leadership by Sue Gray in her report over what went on over Partygate.
“How many more of the seven principles are they going to have to breach before he will stand up and say ‘enough is enough?’”
Conservative MP Caroline Johnson asked Ellis why Pincher was not sacked in 2019, if the allegations brought against him were “similar” to those made about “bad behaviour” last week at the Carlton club.
The MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham asked: “Why wasn’t he sacked at the time, never mind given another job?”
Former Tory minister Jackie Doyle-Price said the rumours and historic incidents surrounding Pincher should have been enough to tell the PM that his appointment was not “wise”.
Jackie Doyle-Price said Pincher's appointment was not “wise”. (Photo: Rob Stothard via Getty Images)
Doyle-Price said the government whips’ office was meant to be a “safe space for welfare”, adding: “Notwithstanding what he said about natural justice, the very whiff of rumours and historic incidents that Simon McDonald referred to in his letter today should have been enough to tell the prime minister that that appointment wasn’t wise, and he could have made use of the honourable gentleman’s talents in a different department, as he had done previously.”
Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin suggested political leaders promoting people with the “wrong attitudes and the wrong behaviours” gives permission to others to behave similarly.
Sir Bernard, chairman of the liaison committee, said: “There is periodically much discussion in this place and about this place about how we should address the culture of this place that seems to give permission for the wrong attitudes and the wrong behaviours.
“But how does it help if our own political leaders, in all political parties, finish up promoting people with the wrong attitudes and the wrong behaviours?
“Isn’t that exactly what gives permission for the wrong attitudes and the wrong behaviours to persist?”
It is the latest in a series of scandals rocking Johnson’s government and comes as rebel MPs push for a second vote of no confidence in the prime minister.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.