By Sarah Bates
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Chris Pincher scandal shows Johnson’s government is a safe place for harassers and abusers

The fact that Pincher is still an MP speaks to the culture of how harassment and abuse is tolerated, partly because it is so widespread
Issue 2812
Former Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher poses for a portrait

Former Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher

Another day, another Tory crisis. Chris Pincher, a key ally of Boris Johnson, resigned as deputy chief whip last Thursday after allegations he groped two men in a club.

But it seems no-one who worked with him was particularly shocked. On Sunday, the group of parliamentary aides known as Conservative Staffers for Change said the revelations about Pincher “come as no surprise”. “Having raised concerns about sexual misconduct with the chief whip, we were disappointed not only by how long it took to remove the whip from Pincher, but also at the continued lack of clarity about the PM’s knowledge of his behaviour.”

Johnson’s office says that it knew little about Pincher’s behaviour. But former Downing Street top bod Dominic Cummings claims that Johnson called the Tamworth MP “Pincher by name, pincher by nature”. Instead of investigating claims that Pincher was harassing other MPs and Whitehall workers, Johnson promoted him in February to the office of deputy whip. In this role, Pincher was responsible for the discipline and welfare of Tory MPs.

Even work and pensions minister Therese Coffey, sent out on Sunday to support Johnson, was forced to admit Johnson knew about general concerns about Pincher’s behaviour. Five further allegations of misconduct emerged after Pincher’s resignation.

One Tory MP said they had warned senior Conservatives that “Pincher should not be anywhere near the whips’ office”. And another said, “I told a whip what I thought of Pincher, and that he had a terrible reputation with younger staff and MPs which had not gone away. That still stands.”

One Tory said, “There were persistent rumours about Chris and how he behaves when drunk, but there are persistent rumours about most people in parliament and if you believed all of them we would have no MPs.”

Dozens of MPs are under investigation for sexual harassment. And those are the ones with formal processes unfolding. There will be many more who operate out in the open but are not yet being investigated. Yet despite the evidence tumbling out of Whitehall, Chris Pincher is still an MP. It really speaks to the culture of how harassment and abuse is tolerated, partly because it is so widespread.

It is yet another example of how Boris Johnson’s Tory party is a safe haven for abusers and harassers. Far from being held to account, they are promoted to the highest offices in the organisation. That’s because Johnson is more worried about filling his administration with personal allies than protecting his colleagues.

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