Carrie Johnson ‘openly questioned Chris Pincher’s suitability for government whip as far back as 2017’
- The PM’s wife ‘openly challenged Pincher’s appointment’ when working at CCHQ
- Her questioning raises question over the PM’s decision-making on the matter
- A No.10 spokesperson has admitted that Boris did know about the allegations against Pincher when he was appointed – despite previous denials
Carrie Johnson ‘openly questioned’ alleged groper Chris Pincher’s appointment as a whip in 2017 while she was a Conservative communication director.
Mrs Johnson (then Ms Symonds) questioned how Pincher secured the job with the Tories whips’ office after rumours surfaced of Mr Pincher’s ‘misconduct’ in correspondence seen by Sky News.
The claims come as Tories demand answers over the Prime Minister’s knowledge of Mr Pincher’s alleged antics when he made his a whip.
The revelations come as Tories demand answers over the Prime Minister’s knowledge of Mr Pincher’s alleged antics when he made his a whip
Contrary to earlier claims from Downing Street, they have now confirmed the PM was aware of claims of misconduct by Mr Pincher when he was appointed
Contrary to earlier claims from Downing Street, they have now confirmed the PM was aware of claims of misconduct by Mr Pincher when he was appointed.
A Downing Street spokesperson said that Mr Johnson felt he could not act on unsubstantiated claims of sexual misconduct.
A Number 10 spokesperson told Sky News: ‘Mrs Johnson is a private individual and has no role in ministerial appointments.’
The MP for Tamworth was suspended from the Conservative whip last week after resigning his position as a government enforcer after allegations of groping at a Carlton Club event.
It was the second time he has had to resign because of misconduct claims – but was reappointed by Theresa May to the whips office in 2018.
Mr Pincher last week resigned as deputy chief whip after he admitted ’embarrassing himself and others’ after drinking ‘far too much’ at the Carlton Club, a posh London watering hole popular with Conservatives
The Prime Minister is under pressure over the latest sleaze scandal to hit the Conservatives after months of other after Mr Pincher was last week suspended as a Tory MP amid claims he drunkenly groped two men.
A slew of fresh allegations have since emerged against the 52-year-old.
Questions are now being asked about what Mr Johnson knew of Mr Pincher’s conduct prior to appointing him to the key role in charge of party discipline in February.
It has even been claimed Mr Johnson referred to the Tamworth MP as being ‘handsy’ and joked he was ‘Pincher by name, pincher by nature’ before making him a senior whip.
Can Boris face another Tory confidence vote?
Haven’t we just had a Tory confidence vote?
Yes. After 15 per cent of Conservative MPs wrote to backbench 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady, he triggered a vote last month.
The PM won, but 148 of his 359 MPs backed kicking him out in the secret ballot.
Mr Johnson and his allies hailed that as a clear victory and urged the party to unite behind him.
Can MPs just call another vote?
In theory, party rules mean that because Mr Johnson secured 50 per cent of the vote he cannot be challenged again for 12 months.
But notably Theresa May also won a confidence battle, and was later threatened with a rule change to enable her to face another vote – forcing her to resign.
Are they likely to change the rules?
Some of the PM’s leading critics have warned against ‘tinkering’ with Tory leadership rules to oust Mr Johnson.
But upcoming elections to the executive of the 1922 Committee – expected next week – are becoming a key battle between Tory rebels and Johnson loyalists.
If the rebels win a majority of the 18 positions up for grabs, they could push through their attempt to change party rules.
And, since last month’s no confidence vote, opinion against Mr Johnson has hardened among some MPs following the two bruising by-election defeats in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton.
The PM is now also having to face another Tory sleaze scandal.
Is there any other way for the leader to be evicted?
Mr Johnson has defiantly insisted he will not entertain the ‘crazy’ idea of resigning.
And – barring the Opposition winning a vote of no confidence in the House – there is no formal mechanism to get rid of him before the next general election.
However, a withdrawal of support by the Cabinet would make his position untenable.
What happens if the leader is ousted?
The leader is sacked if they lose a Tory confidence vote, and a leadership contest begins in which they cannot stand. Resignation would also trigger a contest.
However, the outgoing chief typically stays on as Prime Minister until a replacement is chosen.
Are there any other big moments coming up that could fuel the Tory revolt?
The cross-party Privileges Committee is about to kick off an inquiry into whether Mr Johnson misled the House over Partygate.
It is expected to report in the Autumn, when the PM will also have to run the gauntlet of Tory conference.
Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said ‘you can’t judge people on rumours’ when asked whether it was appropriate for Boris Johnson to make Chris Pincher deputy chief whip despite claims about his conduct.
He told LBC’s Tonight With Andrew Marr: ‘There were rumours. I think prime ministers have to be just, they can’t just say, ‘I’ve heard a bit of gossip and I think you’ve done something that I wouldn’t approve of’.
‘You can’t judge people on rumours, that’s fundamentally unjust. There are rumours about all sorts of people that turn out never to come to anything.’
The PM is facing a Cabinet backlash – just ahead of what could prove to be critical internal elections within the Conservative Party.
Tory MPs are next week set to decide on key positions on the powerful 1922 Committee – which are now being seen as a proxy vote on Mr Johnson’s future, amid plans to change party rules to allow another no confidence ballot on the PM’s leadership.
But Mr Johnson, who will face the House of Commons for the first time this afternoon after his recent nine-day foreign trip, will be expected to hit back against the continued plotting by Tory rebels.
The PM is due to report back this afernoon to MPs on his attendance at last week’s Commonwealth, G7 and NATO summits – in which he will be keen to stress the role he is playing in international efforts to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and in support ing Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.
The upcoming contest for places on the 1922 Committee’s executive has led to a battle between rebel MPs and those loyal to Mr Johnson to fill those 18 positions.
When the PM won last month’s no confidence vote over his leadership he was granted 12 months immunity from having to face another contest.
But there are rebel plans to change that rule and allow Mr Johnson to face a fresh vote if they win a majority on the 1922 executive.
One rebel told The Times the row over Mr Pincher had ‘100 per cent’ strengthened the campaign to oust the PM.
Another added: ‘It has certainly sharpened minds to act because it all goes back to the Prime Minister.’
The newspaper reported that one plan by Tory rebels was to change the party’s rules to allow a new no confidence vote in Mr Johnson’s leadership if 90 MPs – 25 per cent of the parliamentary party – submit letters to 1922 chair Sir Graham Brady.
The plan is being portrayed as a ‘compromise proposal’ as it increases the threshold from 15 per cent – 54 MPs – that triggered last month’s vote.
Will Quince, the children and families minister, this morning dimissed the claim by Mr Cummings that Mr Johnson previously joked about Mr Pincher being ‘Pincher by name, pincher by nature’.
He told LBC Radio: ‘I think that quote came from Dominic Cummings, who’s not someone who I give a huge amount of credibility to, given past experience.’
In a series of TV and radio interviews, Mr Quince said he had been given ‘categorical assurance’ that Mr Johnson was ‘not aware of any serious specific allegation’ about Mr Pincher before appointing him as deputy chief whip.
He also denied claims that junior ministers such as himself were having to face media interviews about the ‘indefensible’ allegations about Mr Pincher, due to Cabinet ministers refusing to go on the airwaves.
He told Sky News: ‘I’m certainly not going to defend the former deputy chief whip.
‘The allegations are incredibly serious and I’m appalled by them.
‘But that isn’t the case today, because I was booked in four days ago, in fact five days ago I think it was, to talk about a very important childcare announcement.’
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