Who Is Chris Pincher, The Person Tied To The Boris Johnson Controversy?

On July 7, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned. Since taking office in July 2019, Johnson has weathered scandal after scandal, as CNN detailed. In one instance, he asked Queen Elizabeth II to shut down Parliament during a crucial point in the Brexit debate, a move the country's Supreme Court later deemed illegal. In another, he asked a donor to his Conservative Party for £200,000 to spruce up 10 Downing Street. And then there were the parties he threw at the ministerial residence during the coronavirus pandemic, flouting lockdown rules that everyone else, including the Queen, had to follow. 

But the scandal that finally broke the camel's career revolved around a man named Chris Pincher, as CNN reported further. But who is Pincher and why did he have the power to take down Johnson's government? Up until Thursday, June 30, Pincher was the deputy chief whip for Johnson's Conservative, or Tory, Party, according to BBC News. However, on that day, he sent Johnson a resignation letter, saying that he had "drank far too much" and "embarrassed myself and other people." By "embarrassed myself," he meant that he had allegedly molested two men at the Carlton Club in London the night before. It was a resignation letter that would have serious consequences for Johnson as well. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Early life and political career

Chris Pincher was born on September, 24, 1969, according to BBC Democracy Live. He was born in the town of Walsall in the English Midlands and grew up in Wombourne near Wolverhampton, also in the Midlands, according to his personal website. He studied history at the London School of Economics and then went on to work at an IT management consultancy firm for 18 years. 

Pincher joined the Conservative Party in 1987, when he was just 18 years old. He got interested in politics because of the miners' strike, according to the Independent. This was an incident in British politics in 1984 and 1985 in which coal miners topped working to protest Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's plans to reduce coal output and ultimately privatize the industry, as History explained. The miners were eventually defeated. Pincher acted as both deputy director of Conservative students and chairman of Islington North Conservative Association, according to the Independent. In 2010, he won an election to become the Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) of Tamworth, also in the Midlands, according to his website. He was reelected in 2015, 2017 and 2019, according to the UK Parliament website. In July 2016, he received his first appointment to the whip's office, according to POLITICO. (In U.K. politics, whips ensure that MPs vote along party lines). He would only hold it for a little more than a year before the first scandal of his career. 

First abuse allegations

In 2001, Chris Pincher met former Olympic rower and Conservative Party activist Alex Story while canvassing for the Tories in London, as the Daily Mail reported later. At the time, the 26-year-old Story was relatively new to the party when compared to Pincher, who had run for election in 1997. Pincher allegedly invited Story to dinner but took him to his flat instead, where he poured him a whiskey. "He then started untucking the back of my shirt, massaging my neck and whispered, 'You'll go far in the Conservative Party,'" Story recalled. After Story suggested they stay friends, Pincher left the room, but didn't seem to take the hint. "[He] returned in a bathrobe like a pound shop Harvey Weinstein, with his chest and belly sticking out," Story said.

Story shared the allegations with the Daily Mail in 2017 in the midst of an abuse scandal rocking Parliament a the time. In the same article, the tabloid also reported claims by former Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop that Pincher had felt him up before Blenkinsop told him to "f*** off." Pincher denied Story's story, but also submitted to an investigation by both the police and the Conservative Party, the Independent reported at the time. He also resigned from his position as a party whip. However, later that year the party determined that Pincher had not violated its code of conduct, as the Independent reported further. 

The Carlton Club

Chris Pincher's Tory Party career survived these first allegations. Then-Prime Minister Theresa May appointed him as deputy chief whip in her 2018 minority government, according to POLITICO. When Boris Johnson became prime minister, he appointed Pincher as a minister of state in the Foreign Office in 2019. Pincher moved to the communities department in 2020, and Johnson made him a deputy chief whip in February 2022. This last appointment would come back to haunt Johnson when Pincher went drinking at the Carlton Club — the Tory Party's members-only club — on Wednesday, June 29, according to The Sun, which broke the story. During the night, Pincher allegedly groped two other men who were also at the club. Multiple Conservative MPs witnessed his behavior and wrote to the party whips to complain and argue that he should be booted from his position. 

The next day, however, Pincher took matters into his own hands by resigning his position as whip himself. "I think the right thing to do in the circumstances is for me to resign as deputy chief whip," he wrote in a letter to Johnson. "I owe it to you and the people I've caused upset to, to do this." On Friday, July 1, someone filed a complaint about Pincher's behavior with Parliament watchdog the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, and he was suspended from the Conservative Party, BBC News reported. He remained an MP as an Independent, however. 


So why was Chris Pincher's resignation such a big problem for Boris Johnson? It emerged that complaints over behavior "similar" to Pincher's Carlton Club actions were reported to chief diplomat Simon McDonald in the summer of 2019, when Pincher worked in the Foreign Office, according to POLITICO. An investigation determined that the complaints had merit, and Pincher promised not to repeat his inappropriate actions. This became a problem for Johnson because he first claimed that he was not aware of any "specific allegations" against Pincher when he made him deputy chief whip, as BBC News reported. However, it emerged that he had been briefed about the Foreign Office complaints. Johnson then said that he had forgotten about the complaints, as PA Media reported. "Last week, when fresh allegations arose, the prime minister did not immediately recall the conversation in late 2019 about this incident," Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis told MPs on Tuesday, July 5. The same day, Johnson apologized for promoting Pincher. "In hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do," he said, as Reuters reported. 

The apology was too little, too late. Also on Tuesday, top Cabinet ministers Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid resigned, according to POLITICO. They were followed by more than 40 ministers and aides the next day, a record number of resignations for a single day, according to BBC News. Finally, on Thursday, Johnson admitted he was out, as The New York Times reported. 

More allegations emerge

In the days after Chris Pincher resigned his position, even more allegations of sexual misconduct began to emerge. Conservative councillor Daniel Cook said that Pincher had groped him in 2005 and 2006, according to BBC News. Cook said that Pincher had been drunk during both incidents and Cook had complained to the Conservative Party. Channel News 4 further reported that two different U.K. police departments had received reports of sexual assaults alleged to have been committed by Pincher. One incident occurred in London between 2010 and 2012 and another in Staffordshire in 2019, according to BBC News. In the London case, the police interviewed a few people but never made any arrests. The person who brought the case to the Staffordshire police decided to drop it. 

Pincher denied any wrongdoing in the past. He did say that he would cooperate with the investigation into his Carlton Club behavior, according to BBC News. He also said he would seek professional help. "The stresses of the last few days, coming on top of those over the last several months, have made me accept that I will benefit from professional medical support," he said July 2. "I am in the process of seeking that now, and I hope to be able to return to my constituency duties as soon as possible." However, if the investigation does not decide in his favor, he could be suspended from Parliament, something that could ultimately lead to a new election in Tamworth, Sky News explained.