A new sex scandal involving the UK’s ruling Conservative Party hit the embattled British prime minister on Friday, the first day after he returned from a world trip.
One MP resigned from his post within Boris Johnson’s government on Thursday following accusations he groped two men while drunk.
Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher, who is responsible for discipline in the Conservative Party, admitted he “drank way too much” and apologised for “embarrassing myself and others” in his resignation letter.
This incident — the Conservatives’ fifth major sex scandal in three months — is bad news for Johnson who has just returned from an eight-day diplomacy marathon across two continents.
During his international tour, in which he visited Rwanda, Germany and then Spain for G7 and NATO summits, Johnson repeatedly tried to brush aside domestic political troubles and called for a focus on policy, not people.
‘Total degradation in standards’
Complaints were raised with the Conservative Party after Pincher, 52, allegedly touched two men, including another MP, at a private club in central London on Wednesday evening.
Witnesses told the BBC he was “extremely drunk” at the Carlton Club, a members-only haunt of the Conservative Party.
Although he resigned as deputy chief whip, Pincher is still an MP, which has sparked calls for him to be expelled from the party and an internal investigation.
“It is out of the question for the Conservatives to ignore a possible sexual assault,” tweeted Angela Rayner, Deputy Leader of the opposition Labour Party, criticising a “total degradation in the standards of public life” under the ruling party.
Speaking on 27 June at a G7 Summit in Germany, Johnson dismissed questions about political issues at home, including a double by-election hammering and discontent among Tory MPs.
“The job of the government is to get on with governing, and to resist the blandishments of the media, no matter how brilliant, to talk about politics, not to talk about ourselves,” he said to the BBC.
Latest in a series of scandals
Pincher’s case is the latest in a series of sex scandals to shake the Conservative Party since April.
An unnamed Conservative MP was accused of rape in May, days after Imran Ahmad Khan resigned as an MP following a sexual assault conviction.
In April, former MP Neil Parish quit after watching porn in parliament, while MP David Warburton has been temporarily suspended pending the outcome of a probe into multiple sexual harassment allegations.
Warburton, who is married with two children, says he has “enormous amounts of defence”.
There have also been questions over reports that as foreign secretary, Johnson tried to get his then-girlfriend Carrie Johnson, who is now his wife, a top job in his ministry in 2018.
The report first appeared in The Times on 18 June, alleging that Johnson was blocked by colleagues after they discovered their affair. It was later withdrawn and both The Times and Johnson have declined to comment.
The current Conservative government has also been rocked by scandals surrounding drunken Downing Street parties during the Coronavirus lockdowns.
This resulted in Johnson being held to a vote of no confidence by his own camp, which he narrowly survived.