Home Europe Rishi Sunak could face fifth by-election after Chris Pincher report

Rishi Sunak could face fifth by-election after Chris Pincher report

by editor

LONDON — Suspended Tory MP Chris Pincher could be permanently forced from parliament following a damning report into groping allegations against him.

In a report Thursday, the standards committee recommended an eight-week suspension for the MP after finding that he drunkenly “groped two individuals” during visits to Westminster’s Carlton Club.

Under parliament rules for removing MPs, this level of punishment — if approved by MPs — could lead to a recall petition, ultimately triggering a by-election at a time Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is already facing four.

In their report, the standards committee — made up of cross-party MPs — found that Pincher’s behavior was “completely inappropriate, profoundly damaging to the individuals concerned, and represented an abuse of power.”

Pincher’s conduct played a key role in the downfall of Boris Johnson, whose handling of the scandal involving an ally prompted disgruntled ministers to resign en masse.

The former PM had appointed Pincher to the role of deputy chief whip, but POLITICO reported that Downing Street had previously been made aware of sexual misconduct allegations against Pincher before appointing him to the senior government post, where he was tasked with handling party discipline.

Incident detailed

The report details how Pincher, who was described by one witness as “smashed,” is said to have entered the club twice and groped two officials, one working in the House of Lords and the other a civil servant.

After first stroking the neck of the former, Pincher is then said to have returned and “touched one [the official’s] buttocks with his hand.”

The other official said that while they were standing talking to Pincher and a friend in the club, the MP touched his “backside, before moving his hands around, and then he kind of grabbed me at the front of my groin.”

Pincher argued in mitigation that while he had damaged his own reputation and that of the government, he did not do “significant damage” to the reputation of the Westminster parliament. He admitted he did not recall the events in question.

But the hefty punishment recommended for Pincher could lead to his ousting from parliament. Any suspension from parliament for longer than ten days results in a recall petition, where his constituents will get the chance to force a by-election in his Tamworth constituency.

Sunak is already facing four by-elections this summer, after MP David Warburton quit over misconduct allegations and a number of Johnson allies resigned. Due to the Tory party’s deep polling deficit, they are expected to lose most — if not all — of these seats.

Pincher has the right to appeal the committee’s judgment. MPs will also have to approve the report — setting up a potentially contentious vote in the Commons.

“Sexual misconduct of this nature, by a serving senior member of the house in such a situation, also involves an abuse of power. Mr Pincher was the government deputy chief whip at the time and therefore in a position of significant power and authority,” the committee wrote.

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