Tory whip suspended from Chris Pincher after formal investigation launched
Conservative MP Chris Pincher has been suspended from the parliamentary party and will be subject to a sexual misconduct investigation over allegations he drunkenly groped two men, it has been announced.
Boris Johnson has agreed that the whip should be suspended from Mr Pincher while he is investigated by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, a Tory spokeswoman said.
A Downing Street source suggested the prime minister agreed after speaking to a Tory MP who was with one of the men allegedly groped by Mr Pincher.
Earlier, No 10 admitted it knew of “unsubstantiated” claims against the MP when Mr Johnson promoted him – but said it had no reason to block the appointment.
Mr Pincher resigned yesterday, saying he “drank far too much” at a private members’ club and “embarrassed himself”.
Labour, as well as other Tory MPs, had demanded he be suspended.
The only two women Tory MPs to chair Commons select committees, Caroline Nokes and Karen Bradley, called for a policy of “zero tolerance” for any such alleged conduct.
That’s all for The Independent’s live coverage of politics for today. Our politics desk will be bringing you more over the weekend but for now you can catch up with the latest here.
Liam James1 July 2022 23:10
Mystery MP who walked in on Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds in ‘compromising situation’ revealed
The mystery MP who walked in on Boris Johnson and then-girlfriend Carrie Symonds in an allegedly ‘compromising situation’ when he was foreign secretary is Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns, The Independent can reveal (Simon Walters reports).
Downing Street said that Burns “flagged up” the couple’s relationship to Foreign Office officials after finding them “having a glass of wine together” alone in Mr Johnson’s Commons office as foreign secretary in 2018.
Mr Burns, one of Mr Johnson’s most loyal supporters, had a “sixth sense” that their relationship was “one to watch”, said a senior No 10 source.
Mr Burns raised the matter with Mr Johnson’s close aide Ben Gascoigne, who worked for him at the Foreign Office and is now No 10 deputy chief of staff.
Liam James1 July 2022 22:40
The Conservative MPs forced to quit, lose the whip or jailed
A string of scandals has engulfed the Tory party under Boris Johnson’s leadership. Round-up from PA News:
Liam James1 July 2022 22:10
Chris Pincher: PM ally who campaigned to ‘save Boris’
“Pincher by name, pincher by nature,” one Tory MP said of the former deputy chief whip forced to resign amid allegations he groped two men at a private members’ club.
The prime minister is now facing claims that Downing Street was warned about Chris Pincher even before he was given his latest government job in February’s reshuffle.
Especially as last night was not the first time the MP has been forced to resign from the whips’ office.
That was in 2017, when he faced accusations, which he denied, from a former Olympic swimmer and Conservative candidate.
But in times of crisis all prime ministers need allies.
Kate Devlin profiles the twice resigned whip who is being investigated for sexual misconduct:
Liam James1 July 2022 21:30
Watch: Tory whip suspended from Chris Pincher after formal investigation launched
The team at Independent TV have composed a disgestible version of the developments in the Chris Pincher scandal. Get up to speed if you missed the past few hours:
Tory whip suspended from Chris Pincher after formal investigation launched
Liam James1 July 2022 20:40
Comment: After hearing news of ‘groping’ Tory MP Chris Pincher, I have only two words
“Not again,” said Tom Peck when he heard the allegations against Chris Pincher.
The Independent’s political sketch writer remembers the last time the (now twice) former deputy chief whip resigned his post over sexual misconduct allegations:
Liam James1 July 2022 20:10
Tories suffer three council by-election defeats
The Conservatives have suffered a hat-trick of council by-election defeats, continuing a recent run of poor results that has led them to shed seats to various opponents.
The party lost two contests on Thursday to the Liberal Democrats and a third to Labour.
The Tories have now made a net loss of 11 council seats since the local elections at the start of May.
With the latest defeats, the Lib Dems won a seat in the Bridlington North ward of East Riding council, which had become vacant following the death of the previous Tory councillor.
The second Lib Dem gain came in the Bernwood ward of Buckinghamshire council, where they took a seat in a by-election triggered by the resignation of its Conservative incumbent.
The Tories dropped to third place, behind the Lib Dems and the Greens.
Labour gained a seat from the Conservatives in the Midway ward of South Derbyshire council, following the resignation of a former Tory councillor.
In a bumper set of council by-elections on Thursday, the Conservatives also held seats in Croydon and Wyre, while Labour gained a seat from an independent in Middlesbrough and held seats in Liverpool and Newark & Sherwood.
The Conservatives have clocked up 12 losses and one gain since the start of May, giving them a net loss of 11 council seats overall, according to analysis by the PA news agency.
Of the 12 losses, five have been to the Lib Dems, three to Labour, two to the Greens and two to independents.
The one Conservative gain was a seat on Wyre Forest council that was previously held by the Health Concern party, who did not stand in the by-election.
Jane Dalton1 July 2022 19:30
Putin jokes and defence spending rows: Inside Boris Johnson’s turbulent trip overseas
Boris Johnson looked and sounded exhausted at the end of his nine-day trip overseas. Nine days of strange, somewhat stilted conversations with world leaders. Nine days of rows about biofuels and military budgets. Nine days of questions about Tory MPs trying to oust him.
Asked if he was looking forward to getting home, the prime minister allowed himself a sigh and a smile. “I can’t tell you how much … there’s no place like home.”
But unlike Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, there is no respite for the PM back at the farm. As he kicks off his ruby slippers at Downing Street, he knows his troubles have not magically disappeared.
Adam Forrest followed the prime minister on his lengthy foreign trip. He reports here:
Liam James1 July 2022 19:10
Migrant Channel crossings reached high last month
More than 3,000 migrants crossed the Channel to the UK in June – the highest monthly total this year.
Some 3,136 made the crossing on 76 boats in the 30-day period, with journeys taking place on 19 of those days, according to PA analysis of government figures.
Of the 12,690 people who made the journey in the first half of this year, the second-highest month for crossings was 3,074 in March.
After navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats such as dinghies, 2,871 made the crossing in May; 2, 143 in April; 1,322 in January and 144 in February, according to Home Office figures for the first quarter of the year and data from the Ministry of Defence.
The highest month on record since 2018 was for 6,971 crossings in November 2021.
The total for 2022 so far is more than five times the number recorded between January and June 2020 (2,493) and more than double the six-month tally for the first half of last year (5,917).
The figures indicate 51,824 people have made the crossing since 2018.
Home Office figures show 28,526 crossed in 2021, compared with 8,466 in 2020, 1,843 in 2019 and 299 in 2018.
Jane Dalton1 July 2022 18:50
Angela Rayner says Boris Johnson ‘dragged kicking and screaming’ into action against Chris Pincher
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the prime minister was forced into suspending Chris Pincher as a Conservative MP over groping allegations.
She said: “Boris Johnson has been dragged kicking and screaming into taking any action at all. 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.”
Mr Johnson was said to have been waiting for a formal investigation to begin before suspending Mr Pincher but later relented.
A Downing Street source suggested the prime minister changed his mind after speaking to a Tory MP who was with one of two men allegedly groped by Mr Pincher.
Mr Johnson was speculated to have been reluctant to take action against Mr Pincher inpart due to the ex-deputy chief whip’s part in efforts to save the prime minister at the height of the Partygate scandal.
Liam James1 July 2022 18:30