Parliament is not a safe environment for staff, MPs warned of a growing controversy over Boris Johnson’s delay in suspending a high-ranking politician facing groping charges.
Chris Pincher, the former deputy head whip, resigned from his government job on Thursday night.
But he remained a Conservative MP for another 24 hours until the Prime Minister finally bowed to pressure from outraged Tory MPs to remove the party whip.
As accusations of ‘pestminster’ flood Westminster for the third time in five years, Shadow Forces Secretary Luke Pollard warned that Parliament was “not a safe place to work” and that “higher standards” were needed in politics, in a interview with Sky News.
Meanwhile, a Conservative MP told the… Independent he would not bring trainees to parliament and would only allow them to work in his constituency.
“Staff and other people working in the House of Commons should be able to expect a minimum standard of behaviour,” he said. “But they can’t.”
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to say what he knew and when about allegations surrounding Pincher.
His former chief of staff Dominic Cummings, a persistent thorn in the Prime Minister’s side, tweeted: “If (Johnson) didn’t know about Pincher as he claims, why did he repeatedly laugh at him in No10 as ‘pincher by name pincher’ by nature? ‘ long before he appointed him…”.
Tory Andrew Bridgen accused Downing Street of “double standards” and suggested that because Mr Pincher was an “arch-loyalist” he was treated differently from Neil Parish, the MP was forced to resign after admitting to having viewed pornography in the House of Commons.
Mr Pincher dramatically resigned as deputy head whip after he was alleged to have groped two men in a private members’ club.
A parliamentary watchdog is now investigating the charges against him.
Today he said he was seeking “professional medical support” and suggested that he take some time off from some of his duties as an MP.
In a statement, Mr Pincher, who now sits as an independent, said: “I respect the Prime Minister’s decision to suspend the whip while an investigation is underway, and I will fully cooperate with it.
“As I told the Prime Minister, I had far too much to drink on Wednesday night, embarrassed myself and others, and I am truly sorry for the upset I caused.
“The stress of the past few days, on top of the stress of the past few months, has made me accept that I will benefit from professional medical support.
“That’s what I’m looking for now and I hope to resume my duties in my constituency as soon as possible.”
Since the first allegations emerged, further allegations have been made.
The Times reported that a young Tory activist said he had received an unwelcome sexual advance last year. The activist said the MP put his hand on his knee and told him he would “go far in the party” at last year’s party conference. Mr Pincher’s lawyers told the newspaper that he firmly denied the allegation.
In 2017, Mr Pincher also resigned from the whip office after ex-Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story claimed he touched him while making an unwanted pass.
Mr Pincher said at the time, “I do not recognize the events or the interpretation that has been put on it…if Mr. Story has ever been offended by anything I have said, I can only apologize to him.”
He was later acquitted of violating his party’s code of conduct over the charges.