Boris Johnson mocks Chris Pincher groping claim row by 'snoring' at question
Boris Johnson has scoffed at a question about his handling of groping allegations against former Tory whip Chris Pincher by pretending to fall asleep.
It comes as a group of senior MPs prepares to reveal its findings of its investigation into the allegations against Mr Pincher that hastened the downfall of Mr Johnson.
The standards committee had reportedly recommended a sanction exceeding the 10-day threshold, paving the way for another damaging by-election for Rishi Sunak in Mr Pincher’s Tamworth seat.
But Mr Johnson mocked the row – which provoked fury from Tory MPs last summer and helped lead to a cabinet revolt – when grilled on the saga in a new interview for the One Decision podcast.
Asked if he wished he had listened to Tory MPs when they shared their unease over his failure to act on claims against Mr Pincher, Mr Johnson looked disgruntled – then pretended to snore.
Interviewer Julia Macfarlane told the News Agents podcast: “I could see he was trying to undermine my question and what I tried to do was not to rise to it,” adding that she had been told he would try to “intimidate” her.
Mr Pincher was the Tory government’s deputy chief whip last summer when he was accused of drunkenly groping two men at the exclusive Carlton Club in London.
He resigned from the position and later lost the Tory whip, meaning he now sits in the Commons as an independent.
Already battling to remain prime minister while dogged by Partygate allegations, Mr Johnson’s handling of the Pincher affair was the final straw for his cabinet support.
Chris Pincher quit government after allegedly drunken assaulting two fellow guests
The then-PM had appointed the MP to the senior role overseeing party discipline despite being aware of an official complaint about Mr Pincher’s prior behaviour.
Mr Johnson did not deny that he used the phrase “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” about the ex-minister.
In his resignation letter, Mr Pincher wrote to the then PM: “Last night I drank far too much. 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.”
A recall petition could be triggered in his Staffordshire seat if the committee recommends a suspension of at least 10 sitting days and the wider Commons approves it. Sources suggested to the BBC the committee would recommend a punishment of over 10 days.
If 10 per cent of Tamworth voters sign it then the Conservatives – already reeling in the national polls and the prospect of byelections in Uxbridge, Mid-Bedfordshire, Selby and Somerton and Frome – will have to defend another constituency.
Two of three by-elections set to happen on 20 July were triggered by the resignations of Mr Johnson and his ally Nigel Adams. The third, in Somerton and Frome, was prompted by the resignation of David Warburton amid allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use.
Mr Johnson’s interview with the One Decision podcast, in which he discusses the Ukraine crisis and his time in government with ex-MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove, will be published on Thursday.