‘That might have happened in the 1970s and 1980s but it’s not OK now’: Chris Pincher’s accuser describes being groped in posh members’ club bar as PM faces more pressure over senior MP’s past behaviour
A man who says he was groped by a top Tory at a posh members’ club has spoken of his fury at the slow pace of action taken against him as he revealed details of the alleged incident.
The man, who is aged in his mid-20s, was at the bar in London‘s exclusive Carlton Club on Wednesday when he says Chris Pincher approached him and molested him.
Pincher, 52, resigned as deputy chief whip on Thursday night, but it was not until late on Friday afternoon that Boris Johnson also suspended the party whip pending an investigation.
The alleged victim told the Sunday Times that Pincher touched his buttocks and groin in a ‘bizarre’ attack before he managed to extricate himself and flee to the gents toilets.
He then flagged the incident with another whip, Sarah Dines, who had been in the club’s Macmillan bar at the time. He told the paper he said to her: ‘That might have happened in the 1970s and 1980s but it’s not OK now.’
It emerged last night that Boris Johnson knew of lurid allegations about the disgraced MP two years before appointing him to a senior Government job.
After his resignation, No 10 said the Prime Minister had not been aware of any allegations before giving him the role.
However, The Mail on Sunday has been told that in 2020, Mr Johnson told aides: ‘He’s handsy, that’s a problem. Pincher by name, pincher by nature.’
It is also understood that two months ago the Prime Minister was told of claims Mr Pincher had made unwanted advances towards a fellow Tory MP. It is alleged that when he was rebuffed, Mr Pincher contacted the politician’s wife with unfounded sexual allegations about the MP as an act of revenge.
Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey this morning denied the PM had advance knowledge of Mr Pincher’s proclivities. She told Sky News: ‘I don’t know about any individual conversations.
‘It’s been suggested there was a discussion, a referral to Pet (propriety and ethics) – which happens with all ministerial appointments, there’s an element of a bit of vetting that goes on – but ultimately the decision is that of the Prime Minister. I’m not part of those individual conversations.
‘Chris had served in government before and had been a minister elsewhere, so I’m not aware that there was anything that was brought to the attention of the Prime Minister to make that change.’
Mr Pincher – who has denied these claims but admitted he had ‘drunk far too much’ and ’embarrassed myself’ at the Carlton Club last week – said yesterday that he would be seeking ‘professional medical support’ following his conduct.
Fears are growing in No 10 that the growing scandal could lead to a by-election in Mr Pincher’s Tamworth constituency. Although Downing Street tried to draw a line under the affair by suspending him from the party, many Tory MPs are applying intense pressure for him to be stripped of his seat.
In other developments engulfing Downing Street last night:
- A source claimed that Mr Johnson had said in 2019, when he was running for leader, that he had the ‘support of all the sex pests’ in the party;
- A Tory staffer told how Mr Pincher threatened to report her to her boss when she tried to prevent his ‘lecherous’ advances towards a young man at a Tory party conference;
- A new complainant told The Mail on Sunday he had been subjected to unwanted advances from Mr Pincher a decade ago, when he was 24;
- MPs circulated claims that a senior Downing Street aide woke to find Mr Pincher in bed with him at a party ‘awayday’ 12 years ago – although the claims are denied by the aide and Mr Pincher, who also denies the other new allegations against him;
- Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle took advice about barring Mr Pincher from the Commons if the police are asked to look into any of the allegations, although the MP has agreed to stay away while the claims are investigated;
- Westminster researchers said that when they had complained about the ‘sexual harassment culture’ in Parliament earlier this year, they were told that Mr Pincher was the person to complain to.
Boris Johnson knew of lurid allegations about disgraced MP Chris Pincher two years before appointing him to a senior Government job, it was claimed last night
When Mr Pincher quit as deputy chief whip on Thursday following reports he drunkenly groped two men in a private members’ club, No 10 said the Prime Minister had not been aware of any allegations before giving him the role
Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey this morning denied the PM had advance knowledge of Mr Pincher’s proclivities, telling Sky News: ‘I don’t think that the Prime Minister was aware of specific concerns.’
Claims that Mr Johnson previously knew Mr Pincher had a reputation for inappropriate behaviour stem from 2020, when the MP was being considered for the role of chief whip in a reshuffle.
A member of the Prime Minister’s inner circle told The Mail on Sunday ‘I was in the reshuffle meeting in No 10 when we were discussing making Pincher chief whip. Boris said to us, ‘He’s handsy, that’s a problem. Pincher by name, pincher by nature.’ ‘
Yet when 52-year-old Mr Pincher quit last week, a No 10 spokesman told reporters that he was ‘not aware of the Prime Minister being aware [of allegations] before any appointment.’
Mr Johnson made Mr Pincher deputy chief whip in February this year, moving him from his role as Housing Minister.
It was a return to a position he had previously quit in 2017 after The Mail on Sunday revealed that a former Olympic rower had accused him of an unwanted sexual pass. But an internal party inquiry subsequently concluded he had not breached the code of conduct.
However, The Mail on Sunday has been told that in 2020, Mr Johnson told aides: ‘He’s handsy, that’s a problem. Pincher by name, pincher by nature’
On Friday, Downing Street defended the decision to return him to the role, saying it was ‘not appropriate to stop an appointment on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations’ at the time.
In his resignation letter, Mr Pincher admitted that he had ‘drunk far too much’ and ’embarrassed myself and other people’ at the Carlton Club on Wednesday night.
Last night, fresh accounts emerged of his conduct, with one of the two alleged victims coming forward to claim Mr Pincher groped his left buttock before moving his hand around to his groin. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the man told The Sunday Times: ‘I had my drink in my hand and then he then went down and grabbed my a*** and then slowly… moved his hand down the front of my groin. I froze a little bit and it ended after about two or three seconds.’
The man, said to be in his mid-twenties, criticised Sarah Dines, another whip whom he said witnessed the incident, for asking if he was gay,
He said: ‘I was a bit taken aback by that and said, ‘What’s that got to do with it – but yes, I am.’ And her words were, ‘Well, that doesn’t make it straightforward.’ She saw everything, which is why I am so angry’.
Friends of Dines told the Sunday Times she was attempting to establish exactly what had happened and that she later reported the incident to her superiors, proving she took the matter seriously.
Other witnesses said Mr Pincher appeared ‘extremely drunk’. He was told to leave, but refused, until Mark Fletcher, the Tory MP for Bolsover, physically removed him from the building.
Conservative MPs have told this newspaper that Mr Pincher being inebriated at the club was a ‘familiar sight’
On May 10, he was offered water by fellow drinkers who were concerned about his slurring: one said that he had boasted that evening about loving ‘the power’ of his job.
It is also understood that two months ago the Prime Minister was told of claims Mr Pincher had made unwanted advances towards a fellow Tory MP
Downing Street had suggested the Prime Minister considered the matter closed after Mr Pincher’s resignation as deputy chief whip on Thursday. The decision to suspend him as a Tory MP was only taken the following day after a formal complaint was lodged with the Commons conduct watchdog.
Last night Mr Pincher said he ‘respected’ the Prime Minister’s decision to suspend the whip and has pledged to ‘co-operate fully’ with an inquiry into his behaviour.
He added in a statement: ‘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.
‘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.’
A spokesman for Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said: ‘While we do not comment on specific cases, the Speaker has been assured that the member in question will not attend the Parliamentary estate for the foreseeable future.’
‘Pincher by name, pincher by nature’: How Boris Johnson allegedly described disgraced Tory MP before going on to make him Deputy Chief Whip
By Glen Owen Political Editor
When Chris Pincher wrote in his resignation letter to Boris Johnson that he had ‘drunk far too much’ and ’embarrassed myself’ at the Carlton Club on Wednesday evening, it made it sound as if it was one-off aberration.
But members of the Tory MPs’ club in London’s St James’s had become used to seeing Mr Pincher in a state of late-evening disrepair: on another night at the club in May, a fellow drinker told The Mail on Sunday that Mr Pincher was ‘all over the place’ and they begged him to drink water in an effort to sober him up.
‘He slurred about how much how he loved the power of being Deputy Chief Whip,’ the witness said. ‘There were a lot of other MPs there looking very embarrassed about it.’
Few of his colleagues were surprised by Mr Pincher’s announcement yesterday that he was seeking ‘professional medical support’ in the wake of his disgrace, having grown used to trading stories about the MP which were striking in their similarities.
When Chris Pincher wrote in his resignation letter to Boris Johnson that he had ‘drunk far too much’ and ’embarrassed myself’ at the Carlton Club on Wednesday evening, it made it sound as if it was one-off aberration
The Mail on Sunday was the first newspaper to publish a story about Mr Pincher’s behaviour, revealing five years ago how Alex Story, a former Olympic rower turned Conservative activist, had been the subject of unwelcome attention from Mr Pincher, later describing him as a ‘pound-shop Harvey Weinstein’.
Mr Pincher, 52, quit the Whips Office after the story appeared, but returned within two months following an internal party inquiry which concluded that ‘there has not been a breach of the code of conduct’. Mr Pincher has been accused of impropriety with a current No 10 aide – denied by both men – and of ‘touching up’ former Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop, who is said to have told him to ‘f*** off’.
Mr Pincher was also said to have made unwanted advances to a Tory MP – and when he was rebuffed was accused of being linked to a phone call subsequently made to the MP’s wife containing unfounded allegations of a sexual nature about the MP. Mr Pincher has denied these claims.
It was against this backdrop that Mr Pincher’s name was raised in Downing Street in January 2020 as a possible replacement for Mark Spencer as Chief Whip in the reshuffle which took place the following month.
The discussion – a senior member of Mr Johnson’s inner circle claims that the Prime Minister said of Mr Pincher: ‘He’s handsy, that’s a problem. Pincher by name, pincher by nature’ – could be seen in the light of Wednesday’s events as inappropriately dismissive; one of the main complaints of young staff working in Parliament is that offensive or even illegal behaviour by MPs is often treated as just ‘jolly gossip’.
A separate source claimed that Mr Johnson had also noted to aides that he had the ‘support of all the sex pests’ in the Tory Party as backers for his successful 2019 leadership bid, including Charlie Elphicke, who was sentenced to two years in prison for sexual assault in July 2020; Ross Thomson, who was cleared in October 2020 of allegations of groping young men, and Mr Pincher. ‘He was basically joking that he had cornered the market in sex pests,’ said the source.
Given his reputation, Mr Pincher’s appointment as deputy to Chief Whip Chris Heaton-Harris raised eyebrows across Westminster. It was nearly even more surprising: a four-hour delay in his appointment being announced can now be explained as a successful blocking operation by Steve Barclay, the PM’s chief of staff, to stop Mr Johnson from appointing Mr Pincher as the Chief Whip.
Mr Barclay is reported to have contacted the propriety and ethics team in the Cabinet Office to ask for their advice on the idea after he was contacted by an MP who questioned Mr Pincher’s suitability for the position. The presumption within the party is that Mr Johnson wanted to reward his loyalty, and in particular for the unofficial whipping operation which Mr Pincher ran to drum up support for him during the Partygate rows.
Mr Barclay will have felt quietly vindicated when he read the accounts of Wednesday evening, with one witness saying that Mr Pincher was seen ‘staggering around the bar… lurching towards young men and propositioning them’, before being ‘frog-marched’ out of the club by two Tory MPs and put in a taxi.
One observer said: ‘The guy was so drunk, he could barely speak and was unable to tell the driver where he lived. We had to look it up for him. It was embarrassing to watch and completely out of order.’
Mr Johnson agreed to withdraw the whip following a conversation with an MP who had been with one of Mr Pincher’s alleged victims, which ‘was sufficiently disturbing to make the PM feel more troubled by all this’, a source said.
Last night, one of the two men allegedly assaulted in the Carlton Club told the Sunday Times: ‘I had my drink in my hand and then he went down and grabbed my a*** and then slowly… moved his hand down the front of my groin,’ he claimed.
‘I froze a little bit and it ended after about two or three seconds.’
The question being asked across the Conservative Party this weekend is whether Tamworth MP Mr Pincher’s plea to be allowed to rebuild his health and career while an inquiry is under way will stall calls from restive backbenchers, led by powerful Boris-sceptics such as former Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley, for Mr Pincher to be kicked out of the Commons altogether.
Some Tory MPs were irritated by attempts by No 10 to muster sympathy for Mr Pincher on the grounds that he had lost his career
Some Tory MPs were irritated by attempts by No 10 to muster sympathy for Mr Pincher on the grounds that he had lost his career, with one aide comparing the stress he was suffering to that of Dr David Kelly, the weapons expert who killed himself after he was exposed as the source of a BBC report that the Blair government’s official dossier on weapons of mass destruction had been ‘sexed up’.
Mr Pincher has no plans to show his face in Parliament for a while, A spokesperson for Sir Lindsay Hoyle said last night that the Speaker had been ‘assured that the Member in question will not attend the parliamentary estate for the foreseeable future’.
If the police become involved, Sir Lindsay is likely to turn the voluntary move into a formal ban.
It is yet another mis-step on sleaze by a Government which, in the past six months has seen one Conservative MP arrested for rape, a second facing allegations of taking cocaine and groping aides, a third convicted of having sexually assaulted a teenage boy and a fourth admitting watching porn in the Commons.
Two of the cases triggered by-elections which the party lost badly last month, further destabilising Mr Johnson’s rocky leadership.
He doesn’t want to risk a third one in Tamworth.
‘I’m surprised he has been able to get away with it for so long’: More complaints made about disgraced Tory MP Chris Pincher as alleged victim claims ‘lecherous’ behaviour ten years ago left him feeling ‘disgusted and uncomfortable’
By Georgia Edkins Whitehall Correspondent
Disgraced MP Chris Pincher was last night at the centre of explosive new claims about his behaviour, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
In disturbing testimonies, two further people have come forward to tell how the former Deputy Chief Whip’s ‘lecherous’ advances left them feeling disgusted and uncomfortable.
One alleged victim said he received unwanted sexual attention from Mr Pincher ten years ago when he was in his early 20s at an event in London.
Meanwhile a former parliamentary researcher has revealed the MP threatened to report her to her boss when she tried to block his pestering of a young man at Conservative Party conference in 2013.
Last night, his alleged victim who has chosen to remain anonymous, said he was appalled that Mr Pincher had been able to continue targeting young men.
Disgraced MP Chris Pincher was last night at the centre of explosive new claims about his behaviour, The Mail on Sunday can reveal
He said: ‘I am shocked that he has been able to get away with it for so long. He’s obviously got a drinking problem, he drinks and then does these things.’
In another blow to Mr Pincher, the former parliamentary researcher described how she was sitting with the MP and a young man in his early 20s at a post-conference event when the MP started making ‘lingering verbal and visual advances’ towards him.
Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday last night, she said: ‘Chris kept making visual and verbal suggestions and I could tell the guy was getting a bit uncomfortable, so he and I started chatting a lot more.
‘He was both eyeing him up and making comments about how the guy looked. We were chatting almost in a weird way to make it clear that the guy wasn’t in that space, and Chris just seemed to get jealous and angry.
‘I made some kind of jokey remark towards Chris, not about the situation because I wouldn’t dare – he was an MP – but it was really funny, really light hearted and he turned around and snapped and said, ‘Who is your boss?’.’
In disturbing testimonies, two further people have come forward to tell how the former Deputy Chief Whip’s ‘lecherous’ advances left them feeling disgusted and uncomfortable
For the former researcher, who now works in a different sector, Mr Pincher’s behaviour was an example of a flagrant ‘abuse of power’. She said: ‘That phrase kept going through my mind, it was an abuse of power. I just kept thinking how nasty he was when he felt that I was in anyway some kind of competition. It was weird.’
She added: ‘The irony of someone who is a whip having control over people’s secrets when in fact he was in that position himself, I remember thinking how ironic that was. There was just no way people didn’t know about it. Everyone knew about it.’
Yesterday, a young Conservative activist told how the former Deputy Chief Whip put his hand on his knee and told him he would ‘go far in the party’ at an event held during the Conservative Party conference in October. He said: ‘It is shocking he was anywhere near the whips’ office.’
Allegations about Pincher’s conduct go as far back as 2001, when he is alleged to have acted inappropriately with Olympic rower and Tory activist Alex Story.
The fresh claims are likely to widen the scope of an official parliamentary probe launched on Friday.