Johnson briefed

Johnson briefed ‘in-person’ over Pincher allegations

Lord McDonald has claimed today that Boris Johnson was briefed “in-person” over sexual misconduct allegations against Chris Pincher.

At this afternoon’s lobby briefing a No 10 spokesperson confirmed that McDonald’s claims were correct, but that Johnson had failed to “recall” the briefing.

No 10 say the complaint McDonald referred to had been “resolved”.

The former head of the diplomatic service says Johnson was made aware of the claims prior to Pincher’s reshuffle from the foreign office to the whips office in February.

McDonald says he discussed complaints over Pincher’s behaviour at the foreign office with the “relevant cabinet office official” in Summer 2019. He alleges that an investigation upheld the complaint but that Pincher did not repeat the behaviour while working in the department.

In a letter addressed to parliament’s standards committee this morning, the crossbench peer accused No 10 of repeatedly “changing their story and are still not telling the truth” regarding Pincher.

McDonald accused Pincher of “deceiving me and others”, stressing that: “he cannot be allowed to use the confidentiality of the process three years ago to pursue his predatory behaviour in other contexts.”

McDonald says No 10 has erroneously claimed that Johnson was unaware of any “specific” allegations regarding Pincher’s conduct, and that no formal complaints were made.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, McDonald said it was “very unusual for a retired official to do what I have done this morning, I did it by myself because what I have seen and read over the last few days, I knew to be wrong.”

Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab admitted to Sky News today that Pincher had been subject to a complaint while serving as a foreign office minister in 2019.

Raab avoided delving into the details of the complaint which occurred during his time as foreign secretary, explaining: “just because I am respecting the confidentiality of the processes and those involved I don’t think it is right for me to go into that.”

He claimed to have spoken with Pincher “about the inappropriate behaviour” at the time, and said he “made it clear in no uncertain terms it should desist, it must never be repeated”.

While Raab said he had informed the chief whip of the complaint, he did not inform Johnson about the issue, as it “fell below the bar of disciplinary action.”

Pincher announced his resignation from the role last Thursday evening with a letter that began: “Dear prime minister, last night I drank far too much. I’ve embarrassed myself and other people which is the last thing I want to do and I apologize to those concerned.”

The Sun reported that the Tamworth MP allegedly groped two guests at the Carlton Club the previous night.

Pincher has denied the claims.

In 2017 Pincher was accused of sexual misconduct by Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop and former Team GB rower Alex Story. He subsequently resigned as assistant whip. Two months after stepping down from this role, Theresa May appointed him as deputy chief whip.

Yesterday evening Downing Street admitted that Johnson had been aware of concerns over Pincher’s behaviour ahead of his February appointment as deputy chief whip in “operation save big dog”.

However the PM’s spokesperson said the accusations he was aware of were “either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint”.

Backbench Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale made his distaste for No 10’s handling of the affair clear to BBC Breakfast earlier this morning.
Speaking to the programme, he accused the prime minister of “trashing…. the reputation of a proud and honourable party for honesty and decency, a: “Mr Johnson has for 3 days now, been sending ministers, in one case a Cabinet minister on Sunday morning to defend the indefensible.  Effectively to lie on his behalf.  That cannot be allowed to continued”
“I have been saying for days now that I was not in favour of changing the rules of the 1922 Committee to permit another vote of no confidence within the 1 year time scale. Lord MacDonald’s letter has changed my view.  It is so blatant a lie that it has to be acted upon as swiftly as possible by my party”.
Asked if he thought the rules of the 1922 would now be changed, Sir Roger said, “I had thought not. I am revising that view”.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has also hit out at Downing Street’s approach, writing today: “Boris Johnson’s desperate attempts to cover up what he knew about sexual assault complaints against Chris Pincher before appointing him have been blown out the water.
“It is now clear that the prime minister knew about the seriousness of these complaints but decided to promote this man to a senior position in government anyway. He refused to act and then lied about what he knew,” she went on.