Chris Pincher: Civil servant traumatised by MP’s groping

Former Conservative Party deputy chief whip faces recall ballot after “unwanted, upsetting and deeply inappropriate” behaviour at Carlton Club
Chris Pincher, who now sits as an independent MP

By Jim Dunton

06 Jul 2023

A civil servant who was groped by rogue MP Chris Pincher has told parliament’s standards watchdog that he needed anxiety medication and feared for his future job prospects following the incident at London’s Carlton Club.

The unnamed departmental official was one of two men targeted by Pincher at the members’ club in late June last year. At the time, Pincher was Conservative Party deputy chief whip however he resigned hours later, acknowledging he had “drunk far too much” and had “embarrassed” himself and others.

A report on the incident published by the House of Commons Standards Committee today says the MP’s conduct was “completely inappropriate, profoundly damaging to the individuals concerned, and represented an abuse of power”.

It calls for Pincher – who now sits as an independent MP – to be suspended from parliament for eight weeks over the incident, in a move that is likely to trigger a recall ballot in his Tamworth constituency. MPs will vote on whether to endorse the report.

The recommendation follows an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards following a formal complaint about Pincher’s behaviour that was brought by a House of Lords staff member who was also groped by the MP on the evening in question.

Neither the House of Lords staff member nor Pincher’s civil servant victim had previously met or spoken to the MP before the night of the incident, according to the commissioner’s investigation.

Today’s report contains graphic descriptions of the MP’s behaviour and its lasting effects. The civil servant, who was at the Carlton Club to meet with a former employer, said the incident had “significantly impacted” him.

“I have become increasingly anxious as a result of the incident, and I am now taking medication to manage my anxiety,” he said in a statement.

“I am also fearful about whether this incident will impact my job and future career plans. After the incident, I stopped exercising, which has resulted in my gaining a lot of weight. I have also been subject to rumours about the incident and speculation about my involvement.”

The report said the main complainant also described lasting impacts from the evening.

"I found the incidents with Mr Pincher to be traumatic and the incidents continue to significantly affect my sleep whenever I have to recount Mr Pincher’s behaviour," he said.

Downing Street’s handling of the Carlton Club incident – and particularly then-PM Boris Johnson’s attempts to play down knowledge of previous concerns about Pincher – triggered the wave of ministerial resignations that forced Johnson to step down as prime minister almost exactly a year ago.

The tipping point for Johnson came when former Foreign and Commonwealth Office permanent secretary Lord Simon McDonald directly contradicted No.10’s claims about previous complaints related to Pincher.

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