This morning I received two emails from British friends suggesting that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is circling the drain. Of course he’s been circling it for a long time, but now he appears to be on the drain’s event horizon. I asked for details but didn’t get them. Eventually another British friend wrote me this:
Two senior cabinet ministers and bunch of junior ones have resigned after revelations that [Johnson] lied about his knowledge of sexual misconduct by an MP he appointed to a post.
The BBC article below provides what I think is the answer (click to read):
Here’s the summary; the accused appears to be Christ Pincher
Boris Johnson is battling to stay in office, amid a growing wave of resignations from his government in protest at his leadership.
New chancellor Nadhim Zahawi has urged unity after his predecessor, the health secretary, and several junior ministers walked out.
But the prime minister has been hit by six further resignations, taking the total to 16 in the past day.
It comes as he prepares for PMQs later and a grilling by senior MPs.
Mr Johnson’s premiership has been plunged into crisis following the dramatic resignations of Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
They quit within minutes of each other on Tuesday following a row over Mr Johnson’s decision to appoint Chris Pincher deputy chief whip earlier this year.
Their departures triggered a wave of resignations from more junior roles that has continued on Wednesday.
In six further departures ahead of PMQs, education ministers Will Quince and Robin Walker, Justice Minister Victoria Atkins, Treasury minister John Glen, and ministerial aides Laura Trott and Felicity Buchan have all walked out.
Mr Johnson has admitted it was a “bad mistake” to appoint Mr Pincher, despite being aware of misconduct allegations against him.
It followed days of changing responses from No 10 over what exactly the PM knew about Mr Pincher’s past conduct when he gave him the job.
Now this would not lead to the removal of a U.S. President: remember how Bill Clinton lied about his own involvement with Monica Lewinsky, and was impeached—but survived?
But it’s interesting to compare the BBC coverage in this article with what would be reported if a U.S. President lied in the same way. The U.S. news would give Pincher’s alleged misconduct in great detail, as we love scandal.
The BBC is more puritanical, putting the emphasis on politics and what could happen to Boris. However, there’s already a Wikipedia article on the row, “Chris Pincher scandal”, which goes back to 2017 when Pincher was accused of inappropriate conduct towards a woman. Then he was accused of groping two men. And here’s what got Johnson into hot water: accusations of covering up this (from the Wikipedia article).
On 3 July 2022 six new allegations against Pincher emerged, involving behaviour over a decade. Three complaints are that Pincher made unwanted advances against other male MPs, one in a bar at the House of Commons and one in Pincher’s parliamentary office. One complainant reportedly gave Downing Street details in February and expressed concerns over Pincher becoming a whip in charge of other MP’s welfare. Pincher maintained he had no intention of resigning as an MP.
Johnson allegedly referred to Pincher as “handsy” and Dominic Cummings said Johnson joked about him being “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” in 2020. There are calls for Johnson to explain how much he knew about Pincher’s behaviour. Labour MP Jonathan Reynolds said: “I think we’ve got to acknowledge what the consistent problem is and it is a Conservative party that repeatedly chooses to do what is politically expedient over what is right. It’s clear from what we know this morning that Chris Pincher should never have been put back into the whips’ office.”
Ministers initially said that Johnson was unaware of any specific complaints against Pincher when he was appointed as deputy chief whip. Later, Downing Street said Johnson was aware at the time of media reports and allegations that were “either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint”. The BBC then reported, however, that an official complaint and subsequent investigation into Pincher, while he was at the Foreign Office (July 2019 to February 2020), had confirmed his misconduct, and that Johnson had been made aware of the matter at that time. Sir Simon McDonald, former Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, later confirmed that the prime minister had been briefed “in person” about Pincher. McDonald said that in the summer of 2019, a group of officials had “complained to me about Mr Pincher’s behaviour. In substance, the allegations were similar to those made about his behaviour at the Carlton Club.”
Will Boris go? Should he go for not proceeding to act against Pincher for making advances?
We’ll have a poll, but first here are the BBC’s scenarios of how he could go down the drain as PM:
How could Boris Johnson go?
- If party bosses change the one-year rule on leadership challenges, rebel Tory MPs could try again to oust him later this summer, or in the autumn
- If Mr Johnson lost a vote of no confidence in Parliament, he would have to resign or call an election
- Otherwise, he would have to resign himself – possibly in the face of cabinet pressure, like Margaret Thatcher – or after a fresh wave of ministerial resignations
I know squat about what would happen if Boris went, and will depend on Brits to inform me in the comments. If he resigns, who would replace him? If there’s an election to replace him, would the Tories still win?
And our poll about Boris’s fate. Please give your best prognostication; I’m always disappointed in how few people give an opinion. It’s just for fun—a survey of reader sentiment.