Conservative party rebels have said Boris Johnson’s handling of allegations that MP Chris Pincher groped two men has made it more likely he will face a fresh confidence vote in the months ahead.
One Tory backbencher said the row had “100 per cent” bolstered efforts to oust Mr Johnson, while another said: “We’ve got the votes now to get rid of him.”
Current 1922 Committee rules dictate that another challenge cannot be held for a year after last month’s confidence vote, which Mr Johnson won despite 148 Tory MPs voting against him.
But rebels believe this month’s elections for the 1922 Committee’s executive could focus on a compromise proposal to allow another vote, amid serious questions about Mr Johnson’s judgment in appointing Mr Pincher.
The change would mean a second confidence vote could be held immediately if 25 per cent of Tories in the Commons – 90 MPs – submit letters to the 1922 leadership, double the current amount required to trigger an initial vote.
“This is a unifying manifesto point,” one MP told The Times on the idea of a 25 per cent requirement. “It unites those chomping at the bit to get him out and those who are reserved about rules changes.”
Another rebel backbencher told the newspaper that Mr Johnson’s handling of the Pincher row “has certainly sharpened minds to act because it all goes back to the prime minister”.
Rebels are said to believe they now have the 180 votes to get rid of the PM if they can force a confidence in the weeks ahead, if they can win a “clean slate” at the 1922 Committee set to
One senior backbencher told The Telegraph: “We’ve got the votes now to get rid of the PM”, but added: “It would be wrong to just run another election on the same rules.”
Mr Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip on Friday following claims that he groped two men at the Tories’ Carlton Club on Wednesday. He admitted that he had “embarrassed myself and other people” while being drunk, but denies sexual harassment allegations.
The PM was criticised for failing to suspend the whip from the MP until late on Friday. Mr Pincher has faced a series of fresh allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denies, over the past few days.
Mr Johnson is now facing demands to set out what he knew about allegations of inappropriate behaviour centring on Mr Pincher before appointing him to the Tory whips’ office in February.
The PM is alleged to have referred to the MP as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” before making him deputy chief whip.
Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds has written to Mr Johnson demanding to know what No 10 knew of the allegations before his second appointment as a whip. “This prime minister is clearly happy to sweep sexual misconduct under the carpet in order to save his own skin,” she said.
Meanwhile, in a new allegation, one man told The Sun that Mr Pincher said “inappropriate things” before touching the top of his thigh in a meeting in the MP’s constituency office in 2018.
It follows a series of allegations over the weekend. A Tory MP told The Independent he was groped on two occasions by Mr Pincher, first in December 2021 and again last month.
The Mail on Sunday alleged Mr Pincher threatened to report a parliamentary researcher to her boss after she tried to stop his “lecherous” advances to a young man at a Conservative Party conference.
The Sunday Times reported allegations that Mr Pincher had groped a male Tory MP in 2017, made unwanted advances towards a different Tory MP in 2018, and did the same towards a Tory activist in Tamworth in 2019.
Mr Pincher denies all such allegations. said in a statement on Saturday that he is seeking “professional medical support” and would co-operate fully with the inquiry into his alleged behaviour.
The allegations follow his first resignation in 2017 as a whip over claims he made unwanted advances to Olympic rower Alex Story. After a Tory party investigation into the incident, he was cleared of any breach of its code of conduct.
Junior minister Will Quince defended Mr Johnson over the deepening row. “I have been given categorical assurance that the prime minister was not aware of any serious specific allegation,” he told Sky News on Monday.
Mr Quince said that he cannot imagine the PM would refer to Chris Pincher as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” long before appointing him in February. “I think that quote came from Dominic Cummings, who’s not someone who I give a huge amount of credibility to,” he told LBC.