Downing Street has admitted that Boris Johnson knew of some of the sexual misconduct allegations against Chris Pincher before he gave the now disgraced Conservative MP a job overseeing party discipline and welfare.
No. 10’s changing interpretation of Johnson’s knowledge of Pincher’s alleged misconduct has fueled Tory concerns over the prime minister’s handling of the matter and revived talk of another attempt to oust him.
“It’s another self-harm,” said a minister loyal to Johnson, referring to Downing Street’s handling of allegations In relation to Pincher, he resigned as deputy chief whip of the Conservative Party last week before being suspended.
The election of 16 top executives on the 1922 Backbench Conservative MPs committee, due next week, is expected to be the new hot spot for the rebel Conservatives’ attempt to overthrow Johnson.
The opposition is aiming to change the party’s rules overseen by the 1922 committee to allow another vote of no confidence in the prime minister in the autumn.Prime Minister Confidence vote 59% to 41% Last month, under current rules, no votes could be made until June 2023.
Pincher was last week accused of groping two men at a private members’ club in London. He admitted being intoxicated and one of his alleged victims complained to the council’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.
The Sunday paper outlined allegations of wrongdoing against Pincher that date back more than a decade.
Downing Street initially said last week that Johnson was unaware of any “specific allegations” against Pincher before he was named the Conservative Party’s deputy chief whip in February.
On Monday, Johnson’s spokesman said the prime minister was aware of media reports and allegations against Pincher “either resolved or no formal complaints were made”.
Johnson took advice from political and civil service advisers in February: Downing Street said they had not told him there was any good reason not to appoint Pinch.
But ministers and Conservative MPs are fed up with Johnson’s missteps and his failure to shut down the ranks quickly. “People are fed up with all this,” said one minister.
A longtime Johnson supporter says he has witnessed three different “actions” in Downing Street since he became prime minister.
“The current situation is absolutely the worst, there is no discipline, no strategy and no one sees an obvious problem,” he added.
When Johnson made a statement in the House of Commons on Monday about the recent G7, NATO and Commonwealth summits, the seats behind him were vacant as Conservative MPs stayed away from the chamber.
Conservative MPs who plotted to oust Johnson have argued another uprising could happen this autumn, following the results of a House of Commons privileges committee inquiry into whether the prime minister deliberately misled Parliament over the party scandal.
There were three categories of MPs running for the post of chief executive in 1922: those who were pro-Johnson; those who opposed the prime minister but did not want to change the party rules for a vote of no confidence; and those who opposed him and favored reform.
The committee is currently dominated by Johnson skeptics who are wary of overhauling the rules, arguing that a Conservative prime minister cannot govern if he faces a vote of no confidence every few months.
But one senior lawmaker said it was “very likely” that a new team would be more receptive to the rule change.
Serial Conservative rebel Steve Baker, who is expected to run for chief executive in 1922, is seen by MPs as the most influential candidate open to changing the party’s rules.
One senior backbencher said: “If Steve is elected to the ’22, Boris should be very worried.”