Boris Johnson avoids answering if he made 'Pincher by name, Pincher by nature' reference

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to answer whether he used the nickname 'Pincher by name, Pincher by nature' for disgraced MP Christopher Pincher.

The claim was raised at Prime Minister's Questions by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as the dramatic fallout to Mr Pincher's resignation as deputy chief whip continues.

The former deputy chief whip plunged the Government into a new crisis when he dramatically quit last week over allegations he groped two men at a Conservative private members’ club.

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He had previously resigned from the whips’ office in 2017 over claims he made unwanted advances to a young activist, but was later reinstated after being cleared by an internal Conservative Party investigation.

Boris Johnson speaking at Prime Minister's Questions.Boris Johnson speaking at Prime Minister's Questions.
Boris Johnson speaking at Prime Minister's Questions.

Over the weekend, however, details emerged in the press of further claims about alleged sexual advances to men – including two fellow Conservative MPs – over a period of years.

Mr Pincher has denied the allegations to the newspapers which carried them.

Mr Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings had alleged that the Prime Minister had previously referred to the MP as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature”.

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Opening Prime Minister’s questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer read out the testimony of a man who accused a Conservative former minister of sexual assault.

After reading out the testimony of the man who accused Tamworth MP Christopher Pincher of assault, Sir Keir said: “I accept that is not easy listening, but it is a reminder to all those propping up this Prime Minister just how serious this situation is.

“He knew the accused minister had previously committed predatory behaviour but he promoted him to a position of power anyway. Why?”

Mr Johnson replied that Mr Pincher no longer had his Government job, nor the Conservative whip.

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The Prime Minister added: “I want to say to him that I abhor bullying and abuse of power anywhere in Parliament, in this party or in any other party.”

Mr Johnson said today that he is not going to “trivialise what happened” when then asked if he ever said “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature” by Sir Keir.

The Labour leader asked him: “None of that explains why he promoted him in the first place. And we have heard it all before. We know who he really is. Before he was found out, he has reported to have said he is handsy. That’s the problem. Pincher by name, Pincher by nature.

“Now, has the Prime Minister ever said words to that effect? And I’m not asking for bluster and half-truth. We’ve all had enough of that. Yes or no?”

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The Prime Minister replied: “I am not going to trivialise what happened. Yes, because the very serious complaints have been raised against the member for Tamworth, and they’re now being investigated. It is true. It is true that the complaint was raised when he was in the Foreign Office and the matter was resolved. It is absolutely true.

“It’s absolutely true that it was raised with me. I greatly regret that he continued in office, and I have said that. I have said that before. I have said that before, but it is now a subject of an independent investigation, and that is the right thing.”

At that subsequent Liaison Committee hearing, Mr Johnson failed to deny at the Liaison Committee whether he said “all the sex pests are supporting me” as well as “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature”.

When asked by Labour former minister Chris Bryant whether he said “all the sex pests are supporting me, or words to that effect”, Mr Johnson replied: “People attribute all sorts of things to me. I don’t remember saying those words. But people ascribe all sorts of things to me.”

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The chairman of the Commons Standards Committee went on: “That sounds like a yes to me. Did you say he is a bit handsy?”

Mr Johnson insisted, “it’s not a word I use”, and when asked if he ever said “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature”, the PM said: “I’m not going to get into some trivialising discussion of what I may or may not have said. This is a serious matter. The member has had, I believe, a complaint made against him. And that is where I propose to leave it.”

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