John Connolly John Connolly

Is Boris Johnson’s Chris Pincher story falling apart?

A former Foreign Office mandarin has called the PM’s version of events into question

Chris Pincher (Photo: Parliament UK)

What did Boris Johnson know about Chris Pincher before appointing him as deputy chief whip? That question has been haunting No. 10 ever since it emerged that Pincher allegedly groped two men at the Carlton Club last week – with previous allegations about Pincher’s behaviour coming to light in recent days.

So far the government line has been shaky to say the least. On Friday a government spokesperson said that the Prime Minister had been unaware of any specific allegations against Pincher before appointing him. That position shifted early this week, with the government then saying that Boris Johnson had been aware of media reports about Pincher, but they were ‘allegations that were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint.’

Now even that position appears to be falling apart. This morning the former Foreign Office chief mandarin, Lord McDonald of Salford, has publicly released a letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, alleging that formal complaints about Pincher’s behaviour were made in the summer of 2019.

McDonald alleges that a group of officials complained to him about Pincher’s behaviour when he was a minister of state in the Foreign Office. McDonald says that this was treated as an official complaint, which was upheld after investigators looked into the allegations. Pincher reportedly apologised for his behaviour at the time and promised not to repeat the behaviour again.

More worryingly for Boris Johnson, McDonald alleges that the PM was briefed in person about the investigation and the outcome of it. In other words, Boris would have known about Pincher’s behaviour and the formal allegations against him before appointing him to the whip’s office in 2022.

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