Rishi Sunak is facing a fifth potentially embarrassing by-election defeat after a House of Commons committee said Tory MP Chris Pincher should be suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct.
A report published by the Commons standards committee recommended that the former Tory deputy chief whip should be barred from the Commons for eight weeks.
The length of the suspension would “allow a petition to be arranged for a recall byelection”, The Guardian reported. Pincher “had a majority of 19,634 over Labour in the last election” in his Tamworth constituency, the paper added.
The committee’s findings are likely to cause a “fresh by-election headache” for Rishi Sunak, said The Independent, with the Conservative Party “already gearing up for three difficult contests this month”.
Polls suggest “Labour could take the seat” in Staffordshire despite the size of the Tory majority, the news site added.
Pincher’s conduct had been “deeply inappropriate”, the standards committee report said, and had a “significant impact” on the two men he drunkenly groped at Westminster’s Carlton Club. It was an “egregious case of sexual misconduct”, compounded by “an abuse of power”, the document added.
Today’s report has added to the “growing pessimism” within the Tory party, said the BBC. With a general election expected next year, some were hopeful that Sunak could “turn things around”. But there is “little sign of that positivity now”, the broadcaster added.
Pincher offered his resignation in July 2022 in a letter to the then prime minister, Boris Johnson, admitting he “drank far too much” and “embarrassed myself and other people” at the Carlton Club.
The handling of the resignation, deemed inadequate, ultimately led to Johnson’s own resignation, as it “prompted disgruntled ministers to resign en masse”, Politico reported.
Johnson had given Pincher a senior role as a party whip, “despite being aware of an official complaint about the MP’s behaviour”, The Times added.
Pincher told the commissioner of the report that he was “very sorry” for the events that occurred and “apologised to the parties involved”.