British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces renewed pressure on Tuesday after a former civil servant spoke out about Downing Street’s handling of allegations of misconduct by a Conservative Party member of Parliament who was suspended recently.
Lord Simon McDonald, who was the permanent secretary in the UK Foreign Office between 2015 and 2020, wrote to the Parliament’s standards commissioner saying Downing Street made “inaccurate claims” about Chris Pincher – who resigned from the post of Conservative Deputy Chief Whip last week after admitting drunken misbehaviour.
In the wake of the resignation, the Prime Minister’s office said Johnson was not aware of any specific allegations against Pincher when he was appointed to the post.
“This morning I have written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards – because No. 10 (Downing Street) keep changing their story and are still not telling the truth,” McDonald said as he tweeted his letter to the Parliamentary watchdog.
In the letter, he wrote: “The original No. 10 line is not true and the modification is still not accurate.
Mr Johnson was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation.
“There was a ‘formal complaint’. Allegations were ‘resolved’ only in the sense that the investigation was completed; Mr Pincher was not exonerated. To characterise the allegations as ‘unsubstantiated’ is therefore wrong.” Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab was asked about these developments on air on Tuesday and he defended his boss, saying it was not his understanding that Johnson was directly briefed.
“In relation to the 2019 allegation or complaint (against Pincher), whilst there was inappropriate behaviour, it didn’t trip the wire into disciplinary action,” he told the BBC.
Pincher, who was suspended as a Conservative Party MP for Tamworth last week over allegations he groped two men at a private members’ club in London, says he is seeking professional medical support and has no intention of resigning as an MP.
The Opposition Labour Party said it was clear that Johnson knew about the seriousness of the complaints against Pincher when he appointed him to an important post of Deputy Chief Whip, in charge of party discipline.
“He refused to act and then lied about what he knew. Boris Johnson is dragging British democracy through the muck. His appalling judgement has made Westminster a less safe place to work,” said Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner.
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