The Chris Pincher Scandal A Story About Power & how Boris Johnson Used his to Protect an Abuser
For all Downing Street’s lies, the real story of this scandal is about how the Prime Minister gave the green light to sexual abuse in Westminster, reports Adam Bienkov
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“Before we get started, are you planning on telling us the truth today?”
This was the first question to Boris Johnson’s official spokesman at this afternoon’s Downing Street press briefing – and things didn’t get much better for him after that.
For days, Johnson’s spokespeople had told us a series of lies about what the Prime Minister knew about his former Deputy Chief Whip, Chris Pincher.
On Friday, his spokesperson said Johnson was not aware of “any allegations” against Pincher.
This was later changed to a claim that Johnson had not been told about any “specific allegations” against him.
Before later being changed again to the line that he had not been told about “serious specific allegations”.
As the days went on, these claims gradually shifted further until, eventually today, we learned that not only had Johnson been told about specific and serious allegations allegations against Pincher, but that he had failed to admit it when asked.
His spokesman confirmed testimony from the former senior civil servant Lord Simon McDonald on Monday, that the Prime Minister had in fact been told about a serious complaint against Pincher that had been upheld. However, Johnson’s spokesman then attempted to suggest that the Prime Minister had somehow merely forgotten to mention it.
In an extraordinary statement, Paymaster General Michael Ellis also told the House of Commons that, while the Prime Minister had been aware of the allegations against Pincher, he was somehow “unable to immediately recall them” when asked on Friday.
He added that Johnson “may be told literally hundreds of things in any one day” and couldn’t be expected to remember them all.
It is barely worth even bothering to interrogate this latest line – the idea that the Prime Minister would have somehow forgotten being told about serious allegations against one of his closest colleagues and allies is laughable.
As Byline Times put it to Johnson’s spokesman this morning, either the Prime Minister deliberately misled his press office and ministers about what he knew, or they deliberately misled us, or both.
Either way, the truth is that the Prime Minister’s words simply cannot be trusted and neither, it appears, can those who speak on his behalf.
For these reasons, Johnson’s spokesman was today asked whether he would consider resigning – given the fact that he has so often misled journalists in recent months.
He replied that he would not. In some respects this is unsurprising. If the Prime Minister himself, who repeatedly misled Parliament, the press, and the public about ‘Partygate’ and Pincher, does not believe he should resign, then why should anyone who works for him?
the WestminsterSexual MisconductScandalAdam Bienkov, Sian Norris and Sascha Lavin
The problem with covering this scandal, like most of what happens under Boris Johnson’s Government, is that the sheer volume of misleading statements and outright lies that come out of Downing Street sometimes make it hard to get a grip on what is actually happening.
Often it is easy to get so blinded by the sound and fury surrounding a story, that you can miss what it is really about. And in the case of Chris Pincher, what we are actually seeing is the story of an abuser who was placed into a position of power by a Prime Minister who was fully aware of the abuse that he had committed.
Rather than stop the abuse from happening any further, Johnson instead dismissed it and joked about it – describing Pincher as “handsy” and referring to him as “Pincher by name and Pincher by nature”.
The result of that decision was that more victims were abused, who might otherwise have not been.
Pincher – like so many others in Westminster – used his position of power to abuse people, and the Prime Minister used his own position of power in order to help him get away with it.
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As the former parliamentary aide Tara O’Reilly previously told Byline Times, sexual misconduct is mostly about power – about the power of those who have it and the lack of power of those who don’t. Abusers and their allies are aware of this imbalance and use it to protect each other.
As O’Reilly explained: “It’s a case where everyone just protects each other’s skeletons so that their own skeletons don’t fall out of the closet.”
In the case of the Chris Pincher scandal, Johnson had the power to protect potential victims from abuse and he instead used his power to protect the person perpetrating it.
For all the shifting excuses and lies coming from the Prime Minister and his representatives over recent days, that is what this story is really about.