LONDON — Boris Johnson was not aware of “specific allegations” against Chris Pincher when he was promoted to deputy chief whip, a Cabinet minister says.
Pincher was suspended as a Conservative Party MP earlier this week over allegations he had groped two men.
He now faces six new claims of inappropriate behavior stretching back several years, which he has denied.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey defended the PM, saying he took “decisive action” to suspend the MP.
Coffey told the BBC that “to the best of my knowledge” Johnson was not aware of specific allegations about Pincher, saying she had not spoken to the prime minister directly and had received the assurance from the No 10 press office.
Earlier, she told Sky News Pincher’s appointment in February had gone through a vetting process “like normal”.
It comes after a number of fresh allegations involving Pincher and No 10’s handling of the claims were reported by newspapers this weekend.
The Sunday Times reported that in 2018 Pincher made unwanted advances towards a male Tory MP, who passed on his account of what happened to No 10.
Elsewhere in the papers: The Sunday Times reported Pincher had placed his hand on the inner leg of a male Tory MP in a bar in Parliament in 2017.
The newspaper reported Pincher also made unwanted advances towards a different male Tory MP in 2018 (mentioned above) while in his parliamentary office, and towards a Tory activist in Tamworth around July 2019.
The Mail on Sunday carried allegations he had made advances against an individual a decade ago, and that a female Tory staffer had tried to prevent his advances towards a young man at a Conservative Party conference.
The Independent published allegations from an unnamed male Conservative MP that Pincher groped him on two separate occasions in December 2021 and June this year.
He did not respond to the BBC but denied the allegations to newspapers.
Pincher, who remains an independent MP for Tamworth in Staffordshire, quit as Tory deputy chief whip after he was accused of drunkenly groping two men at a private members’ club in London on Wednesday.
No 10 initially suggested Johnson considered the matter closed, but later suspended the MP from the party after he was reported to Parliament’s independent behavior watchdog.
The prime minister had been coming under pressure to act from some senior Tory MPs and opposition parties to suspend Pincher.
A government source later defended the speed with which Pincher was suspended, saying No 10 had acted swiftly after the complaint was lodged.
On Sunday, Labour’s shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds told Sky the party had been motivated by “what is politically expedient over what is right”.
Former Conservative Party chairman and home secretary Lord Baker said it is “unlikely” Boris Johnson is “the right man” to lead the party.
He told BBC Radio 4’s World This Weekend the questions around the party’s leadership had become “dominant” and party needed unity.
Meanwhile, No 10 has not denied a claim by Johnson’s former chief aide, Dominic Cummings, that the PM referred to the former deputy chief whip as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” before appointing him.
And elsewhere, Tory MP Craig Whittaker has denied suggestions in the Sunday Telegraph that he left his role in the whips’ office in February in opposition to Pincher’s appointment, saying he stood down over health issues. — BBC