ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana explains what may have prompted the prime minister to act against Chris Pincher
I was quite surprised to see the claims that the prime minister had not heard previous allegations about Chris Pincher, because other senior members of the government certainly had. There would be no surprise in the Whips office, either, from the conversations I have had. And later a source admitted to me that the Prime Minister was aware of "general rumours" surrounding his colleague but decided to go ahead with the appointment after the Propriety and Ethics Team in the Cabinet Office "said there were allegations but that they were not substantiated".
Now it is obviously important to stress - that rumour and allegation is very different to formal complaint, and there is no suggestion that Mr Pincher was facing any formal complaints when he was appointed as deputy chief whip. But the allegations were well-known. In fact, I've heard that the decision to appoint him led to at least some resignations from other posts - and I know that some Cabinet ministers would have personally advised against.
The decision to remove the Tory whip on Friday came after several MPs contacted the PM himself, his chief of staff, Steve Barclay, and chief whip, Chris Heaton Harris. "If an MP [Neil Parish] lost the whip for watching porn in the House of Commons, how can another not lose the whip for allegations of sexual misconduct?" said one MP. And in fact, Parish himself, felt the same- coming out today to ITV News to make clear that he feels hard done by - that he was thrown under the bus without hesitation, and that it may even have been Pincher who made the decision. It is no surprise that no10 could not hold its initial position on this.
Neil Parish says Chris Pincher should be suspended from the Tory Party:
A source said the PM had decided that he would act if there was a formal complaint to the police or the Independent Complaints and Grievance Service. When the latter came, the whip was removed. Which is interesting because it is likely that there are other live ICGS investigations in different parties that have not resulted in the whip going. We don't know who they might relate to because the process is kept so under wraps. But I certainly know of other allegations including linked to some very senior MPs. I've also heard a suggestion that the Propriety and Ethics Team - in the Cabinet office - raised concerns about another minister and is looking into another senior member of staff inside No 10.
On that - a source insisted the PM would not override that committee to make an appointment.
For now - removing the whip - will take the pressure of the PM - and he has moved quickly to appoint Kelly Tolhurst as the new deputy chief whip - telling her on the phone that everyone loved her.
She apparently said she was "absolutely up for it" and said she was "incredibly flattered" that he thought she could do this. But this does add up to another headache for him.
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