Chris Pincher suspended as Conservative MP after groping allegation

ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports on the circumstances around - and the reaction to - the Tory whip being suspended from a former Conservative deputy chief whip

Chris Pincher has had the whip suspended, meaning he’ll no longer sit as a Conservative MP, after being accused of groping.

A Tory spokesperson confirmed the suspension of the whip while the MP, who was first elected to represent Tamworth in 2010, is investigated by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.

Mr Pincher resigned as one of the government's top discipline enforcers Thursday night after being accused of "groping" two men - but he was the subject of two other similar allegations just three years before getting the job.

A spokeswoman for Conservative chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Having heard that a formal complaint has been made to the ICGS, the PM has agreed with the Chief Whip that the whip should be suspended from Chris Pincher while the investigation is ongoing.

“We will not pre-judge that investigation. We urge colleagues and the media to respect that process.”

Former housing minister Kelly Tolhurst, the MP Rochester and Strood, has been appointed as the new Tory deputy chief whip following the resignation of Mr Pincher, Downing Street has said.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the prime minister was forced into suspending Mr Pincher as a Conservative MP. “Boris Johnson has been dragged kicking and screaming into taking any action at all,” she said. “He just can’t be trusted to do the right thing. This whole scandal is yet more evidence of his appalling judgement. “It’s time for Conservative MPs to show this chaotic Prime Minister the door before he can do any more damage.”

A Downing Street source said that Boris Johnson had spoken to a Conservative MP who was with one of the men who was allegedly groped, with the account given to him "sufficiently disturbing". The prime minister, who on Friday returned from an eight-day foreign trip, was said to have been waiting for a formal investigation to begin before suspending the whip.

Sources told ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana that the PM knew about the rumours surrounding Mr Pincher, but said the Propriety and Ethics Team in the Cabinet office said the allegations were unsubstantiated.

"It is definitely the case that there are Cabinet ministers who were uneasy about Chris Pincher's appointment," she wrote.

What prompted the prime minister to act against Mr Pincher? Anushka Asthana explains

Former ministers Caroline Nokes and Karen Bradley had written to Mr Heaton-Harris urging him to boot Mr Pincher from the party, as questions over sleaze in Westminster were once again thrown into the spotlight.

According to The Sun, Mr Pincher was allegedly seen acting in a sexually inappropriate way toward two men on Wednesday night at the Carlton Club - a Tory Party private members' club in central London. ITV News understands two Tory MPs complained to whips about Mr Pincher.

The Tamworth MP was brought in alongside chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris, another trusted ally, to shore up support for the PM amid growing unrest over the disclosures about lockdown parties in Downing Street.

Chris Heaton-Harris (left) and Christopher Pincher. Credit: PA

Downing Street appeared to acknowledge that there had been concerns when he was appointed to the key post of deputy chief whip, with responsibility for discipline over Tory MPs, in February. However, a No 10 spokesman said the PM had not been made aware of anything that would have prevented the appointment going ahead. “In the absence of any formal complaints, it was not appropriate to stop an appointment on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations,” the spokesman said.

In 2017, Mr Pincher quit the whips office after a complaint over an unwanted pass at the former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story. He was, however, reinstated two months later as a senior whip by Theresa May after having referred himself to both the police and the Conservative Party complaints procedure.

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