The Chris Pincher scandal is the latest example of the Prime Minister dismissing or ignoring claims made against himself and others

The news that Boris Johnson ignored sexual misconduct allegations against Conservative MP Chris Pincher before making him Deputy Chief Whip tells us everything we need to know about how seriously the Prime Minister takes this issue.

Pincher, who stood down as a Government whip last night after admitting to assaulting two men, had been forced to resign from the whips office back in 2017 over similar allegations. He was later cleared by the party. However, his behaviour continued to be well known, with Politico reporting today that he was given a “minder” at events to keep him in line.

Johnson was warned about the behaviour, according to Politico, but chose to ignore it. A spokesman for Johnson on Friday denied the PM had been informed of “specific” allegations, but did not deny he was aware of Pincher’s broader behaviour.

They added that Johnson believed it would not have been “appropriate” to block Pincher’s appointment based on “unsubstantiated allegations.”

Even in the wake of Pincher’s resignation, the Scotsman‘s Alexander Brown reported that Johnson’s Communications Director told Downing Street staff that Pincher was vulnerable and to “think about how he feels” today.

That Johnson should seek to ignore, or even cover-up, Pincher’s behaviour is not surprising. 

Back in 2012, I revealed that Johnson’s then Deputy Mayor for Policing, Stephen Greenhalgh, had sexually assaulted a female member of staff in a City Hall lift. Asked about the allegations, which Greenhalgh did not deny, Johnson told the London Assembly that he took “a very strong line against inappropriate behaviour, sexual discrimination and harassment”. However he said that he would take no further action against him because “no hard and fast conclusions” could be drawn as to what had happened.

When Johnson later became Prime Minister, he gave Greenhalgh a seat in the House of Lords and made him a minister.

the WestminsterSexual MisconductScandal

Adam Bienkov, Sian Norris and Sascha Lavin

Allegations about Johnson’s own behaviour have also been raised in the past.

In 2019, journalist Charlotte Edwards alleged that he had assaulted her during an event while he was editor of the Spectator back in 1999. At the time, both Johnson and his Cabinet allies dismissed the story with his former colleague and friend Toby Young saying that women would complain “if Boris didn’t put his hand on their knee”.

The story was quickly dropped by the press after Johnson’s denial. Yet he has previously been quite open about such behaviour.

Upon leaving the Spectator, Johnson wrote a piece advising his successor that the best way to deal with the magazine’s then publisher Kimberly Quinn was to “just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way”.

Standards of behaviour within Johnson’s party do not appear to have changed much in the intervening years. In the past six months alone, at least five Conservative MPs have had to either resign, be suspended, and in one case arrested, over sexual misconduct allegations. 

These include David Warburton, who lost the Conservative whip over allegations of sexual harassment; former Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan, who was convicted of child sexual assault; Neil Parish who was seen repeatedly watching porn in Parliament; and another Conservative MP who was arrested on suspicion of rape.

In some of these cases, the men’s behaviour was well known to the party leadership yet no action was taken until the allegations were made public.

Such behaviour is certainly not exclusive to the Conservative Party. As Byline Times recently reported, allegations of harassment and assault have been regularly dismissed and downplayed by the leadership of all the major parties.

Yet the scale and frequency of the recent allegations against Conservative MPs suggests that there is something quite rotten going on within the governing party. And, as things stand, all the evidence suggests that its current leader is either incapable or unwilling to do anything about it.


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