UK government faces new boozy scandal as deputy whip quits

Chris Pincher's resignation as deputy chief whip adds to the prime minister's troubles.

July 01, 2022 05:11 pm | Updated 05:11 pm IST - London

A camera crew reports opposite the Elizabeth Tower, known as Big Ben, beside the Houses of Parliament in London, on June 24, 2022.

A camera crew reports opposite the Elizabeth Tower, known as Big Ben, beside the Houses of Parliament in London, on June 24, 2022. | Photo Credit: AP

Britain's government is dealing with another boozy scandal after the deputy chief whip resigned from his post following a drunken incident and Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced calls on Friday to expel the lawmaker from the Conservative Party.

Chris Pincher, whose role was to maintain discipline among Tory members of Parliament, submitted a letter of resignation to Mr. Johnson on Thursday.

“I drank far too much" on Wednesday night, Mr. Pincher said in the letter. “I've embarrassed myself and other people, which is the last thing I want to do, and for that I apologise to you and to those concerned.” But he said he would remain as a Conservative lawmaker and continue to support Johnson from the back benches of Parliament.

Mr. Johnson didn't answer when journalists shouted questions to him outside his 10 Downing St. residence about whether he would suspend Mr. Pincher from the party.

Mr. Pincher's resignation as deputy chief whip added to the prime minister's troubles.

Mr. Johnson last month survived a no-confidence vote triggered by investigations into parties held in government buildings when coronavirus lockdowns prohibited group gatherings. A Conservative lawmaker also resigned for watching pornography on his phone in the House of Commons.

After returning from this week's Group of Seven and NATO summits, Mr. Johnson was looking to put those embarrassments — and his party's defeat in two special parliamentary elections — behind him.

Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden quit last week when the Tories lost two seats in byelections, saying the party “cannot carry on with business as usual”.

But Mr. Johnson has remained defiant amid appeals for his own resignation and said he wouldn't call an early election. The next general election must be called by 2024.

British tabloid The Sun reported that Mr. Pincher groped two men on Wednesday night at a private members club in London for the Conservative Party. London's Metropolitan Police force said it hadn't yet received any reports of assault at the event.

It was the second time that Mr. Pincher, 52, quit a government whip job. In November 2017, he resigned as a junior whip after a complaint that he made an unwanted pass at former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story.

But Prime Minister Theresa May brought him back into a government position in 2018 by making him deputy chief whip.

When Mr. Johnson took over in July 2019, Mr. Pincher was moved to the Foreign Office as a junior minister before returning to the whips' office again.

Britain's opposition Labour Party said that Mr. Johnson's government had questions to answer about why Mr. Pincher was put into the position in the first place.

“This latest episode shows how far standards in public life have been degraded on Boris Johnson's watch,” Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said. "The Conservative Party is so mired in sleaze and scandal that it is totally unable to tackle the challenges facing the British people.”

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