PM shamed for disciplining close ally accused of trial and error | Political news
Pincher: The name sounds like a character from a Jeffrey Archer novel or the House of Cards TV series.
There were also, inevitably, wry smiles and chuckles among MPs over the former Deputy Chief Whip’s unusual surname and fumbling allegations against him.
But seriously, as Mr Pincher faces his humiliation, the reality is that Boris Johnson has been ashamed to discipline a close ally after a demand for action from senior Tory MPs, led by two former ministers.
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We have become accustomed to spectacular U-turns by the Prime Minister. But the belated decision to remove Mr Pincher’s Tory whip after an initial challenge was inevitable and predictable.
At midday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman denied that Mr Johnson had been warned of Mr Pincher’s conduct when he appointed him to the key post of Deputy Chief Whip in February.
Oh good? In 2017, at the height of the so-called ‘Pestminster’ scandal, Mr Pincher was forced to resign from the whips’ office after an accuser – a former Olympic rower – claimed he was behaving like a ‘Harvey bookstore Weinstein”.
He was given the post of Deputy Chief Whip in February this year’s reshuffle as a reward for his key role in the so-called ‘Operation Save Big Dog’, seeing opposition to the Prime Minister from Tory MPs at the height of the partygate scandal.
And after protests led by ex-ministers Caroline Nokes and Karen Bradley, who chair Commons select committees, the inevitable Downing Street U-turn came at 5 p.m., just five hours after the initial challenge of the number 10.
The official reason given for the raid was that a formal complaint against Mr Pincher had now been lodged with Commons authorities.
Some would say Mr. Pincher is lucky the police weren’t asked to investigate. Still. It could happen.
The investigation will be conducted by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), set up in 2018 as a result of “Pestminster”.
Its main job has been to tackle sexual misconduct by MPs, although its remit also includes allegations of bullying and harassment.
But the inevitable descent will not spare Mr Johnson claims that his judgment was once again proven to be deeply flawed and that he once again showed irresponsible leniency towards a companion, an ally or pal accused of wrongdoing.
Remember Owen Paterson and Matt Hancock. First it was the defiance of the Prime Minister, then the inevitable retreat after a violent political and public reaction.
In a delightful irony, Neil Parish, the former MP for Devon who was ruthlessly kicked out of Parliament after watching pornography on his mobile phone in the House of Commons, has accused the Prime Minister of double standards when it comes to M Pincher.
Critics of the Prime Minister will claim that once again Mr Johnson wanted to see if he could brazenly get away with defending his friend Mr Pincher, but after just a few hours he realized he had to bow to the inevitable.
These critics will also claim that Mr Johnson’s attempt to cling to Mr Pincher as a Tory MP was always doomed and raises further questions about his fitness for office, his lack of integrity and his disregard for rules and good conduct.
The Prime Minister’s supporters, however, claim he took polls of MPs during the day and when he heard of the official complaint to the ICGS he acted correctly and took the right decision.
Mr Pincher’s replacement is another Johnson loyalist, Kelly Tolhurst, MP for Rochester and Strood in Kent, who was previously a whip and then a junior minister.
Some Tory MPs fear the whole Pincher fiasco is more damaging than the party door for the Prime Minister. It confirms his blind devotion to the buddies, his terrible judgment and his lack of ethics, say his detractors.
Boris Johnson is almost certainly a more colorful and controversial personality than any character in a political novel or TV drama.
And now that a formal investigation into the charges against Mr. Pincher is underway, this story is far from over.