It’s been a tough comeback for the conservative prime minister, barely back from a week abroad for three international summits giving him some respite and an opportunity to dismiss questions about his political struggles as trivial, while he appeared as a champion of support for Ukraine against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Social conflicts are increasing due to soaring prices and, after the “partygate”, he must manage a new business in his majority.
In a resignation letter dated Thursday, Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher, in charge of parliamentary discipline for Tory MPs, admitted to having “drank way too much” and apologized for having “covered himself in shame, (him ) and others”.
According to several British media, the 52-year-old elected official touched two men on Wednesday evening – including an MP, according to Sky News – in front of witnesses in a private London club, the Carlton Club, resulting in complaints to the party.
The recent spate of sexual affairs within the ruling party for 12 years is becoming embarrassing. An unnamed MP suspected of rape was arrested and later released on bail in mid-May, another resigned in April for watching pornography in the House on his mobile phone in April, and a former MP was convicted in May to 18 months in prison for the sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy.
The departure of the latter two had caused partial legislative elections and heavy defeats for the Conservatives, followed by the departure of party president Oliver Dowden.
Although he resigned from office, Mr. Pincher remains a Member of Parliament. “The prime minister has accepted the resignation and thinks it was the right thing to do,” his spokesman said. “He obviously finds this kind of behavior unacceptable and encourages those who wish to complain to do so.”
But in the face of calls for him to be expelled from the party and for an internal investigation, pressure is mounting on Mr Johnson to take stronger action.
“It is out of the question for the Conservatives to ignore a possible sexual assault,” tweeted Angela Rayner, number 2 of the Labor Party, the main opposition formation.
“Boris Johnson must now say how Chris Pincher can remain a Tory MP,” she added, lamenting a “total degradation in the standards of public life” under the Prime Minister.
The latter has been considerably weakened by the scandal of the parties organized in Downing Street despite the anti-Covid restrictions during the pandemic. The case earned him a vote of no confidence in his own camp, which he narrowly survived less than a month ago.
On Sky News, Welsh Minister Simon Hart said it could be “counterproductive” to rush an investigation, but said chief “whip” Chris Heaton-Harris would have “conversations” during the day on Friday to determine “the appropriate course of action”.
“It’s not the first time, I’m afraid it might not be the last. It happens in the workplace from time to time,” he added.
Appointed in February, Mr Pincher had already resigned as a “junior whip” in 2017, accused of having made sexual advances to an Olympic athlete and potential Conservative candidate in the election.
He had been cleared after an internal investigation. Reinstated by former Prime Minister Theresa May, he joined the Foreign Office as Secretary of State when Mr. Johnson came to power in July 2019.
London police say they have not received any reports of assault at the Carlton Club.