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Minister dodges questions over disgraced whip’s fate

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This morning a minister has dodged questions over whether a disgraced deputy chief whip could lose the party whip.

Chris Pincher announced his resignation yesterday evening with a letter that began: “Dear prime minister, last night I drank far too much. I’ve embarrassed myself and other people which is the last thing I want to do and I apologize to those concerned.”

The Sun reports that the Tamworth MP allegedly groped two guests at the Carlton Club on Wednesday night.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart told Sky News this morning that he would not say whether he thought Pincher should have the whip removed, and stressed that it was a matter for chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris.

“I know it is the most boring thing in the world when people like me come on and won’t give you a straight answer,” he said.

However Hart added that he has his own view on the issue, and that:  “you can probably tell what that is just from the way I am sort of trying to avoid answering your question”.

“Let’s let today play out, let the Chief Whip do his duty today, and then I think we might be having a very different conversation as the day goes on,” Hart explained.

When quizzed over whether this would be the last such scandal Hart said it would likely not be, arguing that: “This happens in workplaces from time to time, whatever we may think, and I am not trying to say look, just look the other way… absolutely not.”

Labour have already called for Pincher to have the whip suspended, with deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeting: “There can be no question of the Conservatives sweeping a potential sexual assault under the carpet. Boris Johnson must now answer how Chris Pincher can remain a Conservative MP at all. Standards in public life have been utterly degraded on this PM’s watch.”

An anonymous Conservative MP expressed disappointment over the government’s reaction thus far, telling Politico that: “No. 10’s initial response — suggesting he’s done ‘the decent thing’ and allowing him to retain the whip — tells us that Boris Johnson doesn’t take allegations of sexual assault as seriously as the leader of a government should and is the latest demonstration of why he is unfit to be prime minister. The standards of behavior expected in an organization are set by the person who leads it.”

Pincher was re-appointed deputy chief whip in February 2022 after previously served as the Minister for Housing since 2020, and as Minister of State at the Foreign Office between 2019 and 2020.

Prior to that he was Government Deputy Chief Whip during the Parliamentary Brexit disputes of 2018 and 2019.

Pincher is not the only Conservative MP to face allegations of sexual impropriety this year.

David Warburton currently has the whip suspended while he remains under investigation after a slew of accusations regarding sexual assault and drug-taking emerged.

Neil Parish stepped down in April after having the whip suspended for watching pornography on his phone in the Commons chamber.

Imran Ahmad Khan was jailed back in April for historic sexual assault charges, and his fellow MP Crispin Blunt faced backlash for claiming his innocence.

It has also been reported that an unnamed Conservative MP has been barred from Parliament following his arrest on rape charges.

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