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Labour MP to face vote from local party over her future

Sky News politics

A Labour MP who has been signed off sick amid a “sustained campaign of misogynistic abuse” is now facing a vote over whether she will be allowed to stand in the next election.The party confirmed the threshold to hold a trigger ballot into Apsana Begum – meaning local party members can vote to keep her as their candidate or opt for someone else – had been passed and a vote will now go ahead, despite sources close to her saying over 40 complaints had been submitted to Labour about the process.
Friends of Ms Begum, who is Parliament’s first hijab-wearing MP, claim local members have broken rules to campaign for her deselection, but say the party has refused to pause the vote to investigate.Politics Hub: ‘Huge development’ as PM ‘exposed’ by Lord’s letter over PincherOne told Sky News: “She’s not against facing the process, she just wants to be treated fairly

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“It is outrageous. Why would you not stop the process and investigate?”
The Labour Party would not comment on the specifics of the case, but a source said the trigger ballot was “a universal process faced by all Labour MPs on the same rules and procedures”, and Ms Begum will automatically be on the shortlist.

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At last year’s Labour Party conference, the leadership pushed through a rule change that saw the threshold needed to trigger a ballot into a sitting MP raised.Ms Begum released a statement last month saying her GP had signed her off sick after she had gone to hospital.She added: “For the duration of my time as a member of parliament, I have been subjected to a sustained campaign of misogynistic abuse and harassment. As a survivor of domestic abuse, it has been particularly painful and difficult.”This abusive campaign has had a significant effect on my mental and physical health.”At the time, she appealed to the Labour Party to investigate complaints about the trigger ballot process, saying it was “vital” they looked into them and took “the appropriate action”.Last year, Ms Begum was cleared of housing fraud after her local council took her to court.Tower Hamlets Council brought the prosecution, alleging she had failed to disclose information relating to her council housing application.But her defence lawyer claimed a complaint made in 2019 by her ex-husband’s brother-in-law, which triggered the investigation, was “false”.During the court case, she alleged her former partner, local councillor Ehtashamul Haque had been emotionally abusive and controlling. Mr Haque has denied all the allegations against him.

What did Boris Johnson know about Chris Pincher groping claims and when? Here's what Downing Street has said

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Did Boris Johnson know about allegations against MP Chris Pincher when he appointed him as deputy chief whip? That is the question many have been asking – and the answer appears to be changing as the days go by.
Mr Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip – responsible for getting MPs to vote – on 30 June after allegations he groped two men the night before while drinking at the Carlton Club in central London.Despite pressure on the PM to immediately suspend the whip (be suspended from the Conservative Party), it took until Friday evening for him to do so.Explosive letter from ex-civil servant contradicts Number 10 on Chris Pincher conduct – Politics live

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Since Mr Pincher’s resignation questions have been raised about the PM’s decision in February this year to appoint him to the post in the first place.
But the government line on what the PM knew, and when, appears to be changing.

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Here is a breakdown of what we have been told by Number 10 and ministers since the most recent allegations surfaced:30 June – ‘No need to suspend the whip’On the night of Mr Pincher’s resignation as deputy chief whip, a Tory source told the Daily Mail: “The PM thinks [Pincher] has done the decent thing by resigning. There is no need for an investigation and no need to suspend the whip.”1 July – ‘PM not aware of specific allegations’The following day, the prime minister’s official spokesman told political reporters in the daily lobby briefing: “[The PM] was not aware of any specific allegations.”In the absence of any formal complaint, it was not appropriate to stop an appointment on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations.”

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20:43

PM ‘unaware’ of Pincher allegations

3 July – ‘PM did not know about any particular incident’Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said she did not believe the PM was aware of allegations against Mr Pincher.”I’m not aware that [the PM] was made aware about specific claims about any particular incident, no I’m not,” she said.”I don’t believe he was aware, that’s what I’ve been told today but you were asking more about more general rumours and I have no ideas what conversations have been had, I just am aware that the prime minister was not aware of specific claims that have been made.”And as I say, ultimately when he resigned, Chris resigned the whip… sorry, Chris resigned as deputy chief whip and then when specific things were brought directly to the attention of the prime minister, he agreed with the chief whip to suspend the whip.”Read more: A timeline of allegations against Chris Pincher4 July – ‘Categorical assurance PM not aware’Speaking to Sky’s Kay Burley, the education minister Will Quince said he had sought reassurances from Downing Street that Boris Johnson had not been aware of allegations against Mr Pincher.”I spoke with Number 10 both yesterday and today and I asked them firmly and clearly for an answer on this and I’ve been given categorical assurance that the PM was not aware of any serious specific allegation with regards to the former deputy chief whip,” he said.4 July – ‘No complaints upheld against Pincher’Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said no complaints had been upheld against Mr Pincher, which was why both former PM Theresa May and Boris Johnson had appointed him to government positions.He said: “There were allegations about Chris Pincher way back in the May government which he denied, and when they were investigated they were found not to be correct.”He was then promoted into government, he became a minister, so there were of course allegations in the past.”On the specific allegations, the PM did not know and I think as he found out he acted and acted decisively. That’s the right thing to do, there is now due process that has to follow.”

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1:45

Zahawi: ‘PM acted decisively’

4 July – ‘PM was aware of media reports of Pincher’s alleged behaviour’At Monday’s lobby briefing, the PM’s official spokesman acknowledged that while the PM was not aware of “specific allegations” before appointing him to deputy chief whip, he was aware of “media reports” about Mr Pincher’s alleged behaviour.He said: “The prime minister was aware of media reports that others had seen over the years and some allegations that were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint, but at the time of the appointment of the deputy chief whip he was not aware of any specific allegations.”He did take advice on some of the allegations that had been made, but there was no formal complaint at that time and it was deemed not appropriate to stop an appointment simply because of unsubstantiated allegations.”5 July – Ex-civil servant claims PM knew about previous investigation into PincherDeputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News a complaint had been made against Mr Pincher when the MP was a Foreign Office minister in 2019 – when Boris Johnson was PM.”I don’t know that the PM was aware of any substantiated complaints to the extent they would trigger a formal mechanism,” he said.”A complaint that is made when there is the evidence, and is of the severity that formal disciplinary action is taken – the allegations we talked about had not reached that level in the October of 2019.”It was “resolved informally” and “did not trigger a formal sanction,” he added.”The cabinet office propriety and ethics team did not raise an objection to that appointment,” he continued.”I talked him [the PM] through in recent days what happened in 2019. My sense is – I can’t speak for what the PM knew – that he would have been aware when the wire was tripped into disciplinary action and formal action.”Asked whether he told the PM about it, he replied: “No”

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1:26

What Raab knew about Pincher

A former top civil servant at the Foreign Office questioned this account – saying the PM had been personally briefed on the investigation into Mr Pincher.Lord McDonald, the ex-permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, said it “is not true” no official complaints were ever made against Mr Pincher.He said a group of officials in 2019 complained to him about Mr Pincher’s behaviour, which he said were “similar” to the Carlton Club groping allegations, and an investigation was carried out and the complaint upheld.Mr Pincher apologised and “promised not to repeat the inappropriate behaviour”, he wrote in a letter to the parliamentary commissioner for standards on Tuesday.He added that Mr Johnson was “briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation” and said Mr Pincher was not exonerated.Mr Raab later told the BBC it was “not clear to me that it is factually accurate”, adding it was “news to me”.

'Pound shop Harvey Weinstein': Allegations against MP Chris Pincher go back 21 years

Sky News politics

Allegations that the MP Chris Pincher groped two men last week have caused turmoil within the government.And these are not the first claims about inappropriate behaviour by the MP for Tamworth, who has been suspended from the Conservative Party but remains an independent.
Explosive letter from ex-civil servant contradicts No 10 on Pincher – Politics Hub liveWhat are the new allegations?The MP resigned as deputy chief whip last week after claims he groped two men at the Carlton Club in central London on the evening of 29 June.

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In his letter to the prime minister, Mr Pincher, who has been an MP since 2010, said he had “drunk far too much” and apologised for “embarrassing myself and others”.
He said he would be seeking professional medical help.

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Over the course of the weekend, newspaper reports have revealed a series of further claims of inappropriate behaviour by Mr Pincher going back many years.Sky News has approached Mr Pincher for comment in relation to the accusations but has not received a response.  The new claims have increased pressure on Boris Johnson to explain what he knew of the concerns around Mr Pincher before appointing him deputy chief whip in his most recent reshuffle in February.Downing Street initially said Mr Johnson was not aware of any “specific allegations” before appointing him but on Tuesday his spokesman said the PM was informed Mr Pincher was the subject of a complaint about his conduct in 2019.Cabinet Minister Michael Ellis told the Commons Mr Johnson was made aware of the issue in late 2019 and when last week’s allegations arose the PM “did not immediately recall the conversation” but “as soon as he was reminded” No 10 “corrected their public lines”.Read more:No 10 not telling truth about Pincher, claims ex-civil servant

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3:14

PM questioned on disgraced MP

Here is a breakdown of the allegations that have been made against Mr Pincher:2001Former Olympic rower Alex Story told the Mail on Sunday in 2017 that he had been a victim of inappropriate behaviour by the MP in 2001.He claimed that when he was a party activist at the age of 26 he had gone back to the home of Mr Pincher, who was standing as a Tory candidate.He alleged Mr Pincher untucked his shirt, massaged his neck and told him “you’ll go far in the Conservative Party”, before changing into a dressing gown and making an unwanted pass at him “like a pound shop Harvey Weinstein”.Mr Pincher resigned from the whips’ office after the claim, but was cleared of wrongdoing by a party investigation.2012A man in his early 20s received unwanted sexual attention from Mr Pincher at an event in London that year, according to the Mail on Sunday.

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1:26

What Raab knew about Pincher

2013A former parliamentary researcher told the Mail on Sunday that Mr Pincher threatened to report her to her boss when she tried to block his “lecherous” behaviour towards a young man at the Conservative Party conference in 2013.The Sun has also reported on a vulnerable young man who claims he was groped when he passed out in Mr Pincher’s flat in 2013.2017Mr Pincher made further unwanted passes at a Conservative MP in 2017, The Sunday Times reports.2018Mr Pincher made an unwanted advance towards a Tory MP when they visited him in his parliamentary office in 2018, according to The Sunday Times.Although the MP did not make a formal complaint, they told the newspaper they had alerted a Downing Street official and the chief whip about the incident earlier this year.The Sun newspaper has also spoken to charity worker Mark Dabbs, who claims Mr Pincher groped his thigh and backside when they posed for a picture in his constituency office in 2018.

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Boris Johnson with Chris Pincher

2019Former senior civil servant Lord McDonald said a group of officials complained to him about Mr Pincher’s behaviour, which he said was “similar” to the 2022 Carlton Club claims of groping.He said he reported the allegations and an investigation upheld the complaint. Mr Pincher apologised and promised not to repeat his behaviour, he said.Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, who was foreign secretary at the time, confirmed he knew about the allegation as Mr Pincher had just been made a Foreign Office minister but no disciplinary action took place.A report in The Sunday Times also claims Mr Pincher attempted to undo the shirt of a party activist in his Tamworth constituency in 2019.Another young party activist was approached by Mr Pincher at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester that year, according to The Times.The MP tried to convince the young man to come back to his hotel, and told him it would help his political career, the newspaper reports.
Follow the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker2021A Tory activist has told the Daily Mail he may go to the police about an incident in 2021 in which he claims he was “touched up” by Mr Pincher. He told the newspaper he had met the MP to discuss getting a job in politics.A Conservative MP who has spoken anonymously to the Independent claims he was groped by Mr Pincher in December 2021 and again earlier this year.He told the newspaper: “He put his hand on my crotch and moved it around. I shook my head and said no, I didn’t want that, but [he] just smiled… he carried on until I was able to move away.”

Boris Johnson told of Pincher investigation in 2019, Downing Street confirms

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Boris Johnson was told about an investigation into Chris Pincher’s inappropriate behaviour in 2019, despite days of Number 10 saying the prime minister was unaware of specific allegations against his former deputy chief whip. Mr Pincher resigned his post last week after he was accused of groping two men in a private members club, but it emerged on Monday he had already been investigated for his conduct when working as a foreign office minister three years ago.
In an explosive letter to parliament’s standard’s commissioner published on Tuesday, former Foreign Office permanent secretary Lord McDonald accused Downing Street of making “inaccurate claims”, saying they “keep changing their story and are still not telling the truth”.Speaking to reporters today, a No 10 spokesman confirmed Mr Johnson was briefed on the complaint in late 2019, but said the PM stood by appointing Mr Pincher again in February 2022 as, “at the time when he offered the job, he was not aware of any new specific allegations that were being looked at”.Politics Hub: Boris Johnson under mounting pressure for explanation

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The spokesman also suggested the PM had forgotten he was briefed about the incident, saying: “I would add a caveat at least that this was related to a conversation, and what I believe to have been a brief conversation, that took place around three years ago.”
Asking an urgent question in the Commons, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner: “The prime minister was personally informed about these allegations, and yet he was either negligent, or complicit.

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“What message does this send about the standards of this government and what they set?”But Paymaster General Michael Ellis insisted the PM had “acted with probity at all times”, adding: “As soon as he was reminded [of the briefing], the Number 10 press office corrected their public lines.”Shortly before Lord McDonald’s letter was published, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News’ Kay Burley that he knew about the allegation when he was foreign secretary in 2019.He said he had “made it clear in no uncertain terms” to Mr Pincher that the behaviour “must never be repeated”, and he referred it to both the civil service and Cabinet Office for investigation.But Mr Raab said the inquiries did not “trigger disciplinary action”, and he had only told the PM about the incident “in recent days”.Mr Johnson led a cabinet meeting this morning, letting cameras in for his opening remarks – but not allowing any questions from journalists.Surrounded by his serious-faced ministers, the prime minister spoke about the cost of living crisis and his plans to tackle it, but there was no mention of Mr Pincher or Lord McDonald’s letter.Tory MP and critic of the PM John Penrose called the letter “dynamite”, tweeting it showed “another serious breach” of the ministerial code and that Mr Johnson’s “promised reset” after partygate had “no credibility because their behaviour hasn’t changed at all”.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said it was “now clear that the prime minister knew about the seriousness of these complaints but decided to promote this man to a senior position in government anyway”, adding: “He refused to act and then lied about what he knew.”Boris Johnson is dragging British democracy through the muck. His appalling judgement has made Westminster a less safe place to work.”

Full text of the letter

Five days after Mr Pincher’s resignation as deputy chief whip, there remains significant confusion surrounding complaints about his behaviour prior to the drunkenness he admits at the Carlton Club on 29 June.
Inaccurate claims by 10 Downing Street continue to be repeated in the media. On 3 July, the BBC website reported: “No official complaints against [Mr Pincher] were ever made.”
This is not true. In the summer of 2019, shortly after he was appointed minister of state at the Foreign Office, a group of officials complained to me about Mr Pincher’s behaviour. I discussed the matter with the relevant official at the Cabinet Office. (In substance, the allegations were similar to those made about his behaviour at the Carlton Cub.) An investigation upheld the complaint; Mr Pincher apologised and promised not to repeat the inappropriate behaviour. There was no repetition at the FCO before he left seven months later.

The same BBC website report continued: “Downing Street has said Boris Johnson was not aware of any specific allegations when he appointed Mr Pincher deputy chief whip in February.” By 4 July, the BBC website reflected a change in No 10’s line: “The prime minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson knew of “allegations that were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint”, adding that ‘it was deemed not appropriate to stop an appointment simply because of unsubstantiated allegations’.”
The original No 10 line is not true and the modification is still not accurate. Mr Johnson was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation. There was a “formal complaint”. Allegations were “resolved” only in the sense that the investigation was completed; Mr Pincher was not exonerated. To characterise the allegations as “unsubstantiated” is therefore wrong.
I am aware that is unusual to write to you and simultaneously publicise the letter. I am conscious of the duty owed to the target of an investigation but I act out of of my duty towards the victims. Mr Pincher deceived me and others in 2019. He cannot be allowed to use the confidentiality of the process three years ago to pursue his predatory behaviour in other contexts.

Mr Pincher resigned as the government’s deputy chief whip on Thursday after allegations he drunkenly groped two men at a private members club in London earlier that week.The party whip was only removed from him – leaving him sitting as an independent MP for his Tamworth constituency – on Friday afternoon after the PM bowed to pressure, and a formal complaint was made to parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS).Read more:What did Johnson know about Pincher groping claims and when? Here’s what Downing Street has said’Pound shop Harvey Weinstein’: Allegations against MP Chris Pincher go back 21 years

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1:26

What Raab knew about Pincher

A number of ministers have since taken to the airwaves to reiterate Number 10’s defence of Mr Johnson, including education minister Will Quince, who said he had been given “categorical assurance” the PM was not aware of any serious specific allegations.But on Monday, Sky News revealed the PM’s wife, Carrie Johnson, also questioned Mr Pincher’s suitability as a government whip as far back as 2017.
Follow the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker Labour’s shadow attorney general, Emily Thornberry, said Downing Street “tells us different things on different days… and as time goes on, the truth starts to come out”.She told Sky News that Mr Johnson had been “turning a blind eye to any allegations because it suited the prime minister to turn a blind eye to it”, adding: “We need a country that is led by a decent, honourable person.”The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Daisy Cooper, also said Lord McDonald had “shone a new light on this murky cover-up”.She added: “Boris Johnson needs to own up to his web of lies and finally come clean today. Every day this carries on our politics gets dragged further through the mud.”And the SNP’s Brendan O’Hara called for an investigation into the PM, saying the letter “demolishes Boris Johnson’s claims and raises serious questions over whether he has lied and broken the ministerial code”.

PM looks increasingly isolated over Pincher saga – and it could get worse still

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The prime minister, back on home soil on Monday and back on familiar ground too, emerged from Number 10 to confront another scandal engulfing this government – this time over his decision to appoint Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip in February despite widespread concerns over his alleged conduct.Mr Johnson is now facing questions over what he knew and when, after the government last week suspended the 52-year-old as a Tory MP after an official complaint was made over his alleged drunken groping.
Many Conservative MPs are quietly fuming over the handling of the entire affair, from Number 10 initially resisting withdrawing the whip from Mr Pincher after he resigned on Thursday night for his drunken and “embarrassing” behaviour, only to suspend it 24 hours later after a formal complaint was lodged over his alleged groping of two men at an event at the Carlton Club on Wednesday.On top of that, Number 10 insisted for three days that the prime minister didn’t know of any allegations of misconduct against Mr Pincher before that complaint was made last week, only to admit on Monday that Mr Johnson was aware of “reports and speculation” about the behaviour of Mr Pincher, while insisting that there was no reason to block his appointment given that these were “unsubstantiated allegations”.Politics Hub: Tory sleaze ‘infinitely worse’ than Major era

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He is not the only one who resides in Number 10 to have voiced concerns.
I’ve seen correspondence that shows Carrie Johnson openly questioned Mr Pincher’s suitability as a whip as far back as 2017 when the prime minister’s wife – then Ms Symonds – was director of communications at Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ).

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Ms Johnson questioned how Mr Pincher had ever ended up in the whip’s office after he resigned as an assistant whip after claims of unwanted sexual advances from a Tory candidate.Mr Pincher referred himself to the police and the Conservative Party complaints procedure and was later cleared of wrongdoing.A Number 10 spokesperson said: “Mrs Johnson is a private individual and has no role in ministerial appointments.”But what is clear is at the highest level it was known that Mr Pincher had issues and Number 10 is struggling to quell the anger in the party from Mr Johnson’s critics, incredulous that Mr Pincher was promoted to such a powerful position, in charge of MPs’ welfare given his past conduct.Two Conservative figures, sympathetic to Mr Pincher, told me that he was vulnerable and should have been offered proper support back in 2017.

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Chris Pincher is now seeking professional medical help

One former minister told me of their frustration that, instead of being told that he would be barred from promotion or even standing in the next election if he didn’t address these some of the difficulties he was grappling with, he was put back into the whips’ office by Theresa May in 2018.Mr Pincher is now seeking professional medical help.For his critics, this is yet more evidence that Mr Johnson is not suited to leading the Conservative party or the country and believe this could mean the prime minister loses more backbench support.This matters because elections to the executive of the 1922 backbench committee are coming up before recess and Mr Johnson’s foes want to fill those posts with MPs minded to change internal party rules to allow for another confidence vote within a year.And as the Number 10 grapples with another scandal, Sir Keir Starmer is trying to use this to put clear blue water between himself and the prime minister, telling me in an interview on Monday that the Pincher scandal shows again that this is a PM who “repeatedly makes bad judgment calls”.Labour is also using the political space created by Mr Johnson’s internal party difficulties to finally grasp the nettle on some difficult policy issues and begin to set out an alternative vision for the UK.There is an emerging confidence within Labour from the local election results and Wakefield by-election win, and the leader is trying to harness that to finally try to end the enduring toxicity over the party’s position over Brexit, with Sir Keir, the former figurehead of the Remain campaign, planting his flag on Tory turf.

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1:04

Starmer rules out rejoining EU

He emphatically ruled out rejoining the EU, the single market, the customs union or freedom of movement in his life three times in an interview with me on Monday.Sir Keir said he wanted to avoid reopening “divisions of the past” and get on with making Brexit work – a policy that he hopes will not only appeal to those red wall seats but provide him with a vehicle to criticise Mr Johnson’s handling of Brexit given the growing row of trading arrangements in Northern Ireland and lack of a much-lauded post-Brexit US trade deal.”The mood is shifting,” one senior Labour figure told me. “Starmer has been having to tell activists that things are getting better, now they believe it – there’s a growing confidence within the party.”But on the Conservative benches, the mood is dire and the PM looking increasingly isolated over the Pincher saga at a time when he can ill-afford to alienate any more MPs or risk the ire of those in cabinet fed up with having to publicly defend him.And it could get worse still, if one of Mr Pincher’s accusers complains to the police. Mr Johnson could find himself facing another by-election precipitated by Tory sleaze.

Carrie Johnson questioned 'how Pincher had ever ended up in the whips' office' five years ago

Sky News politics

Carrie Johnson openly questioned Chris Pincher’s suitability as a government whip as far back as 2017, Sky News understands.While communications director at CCHQ in 2017, Mrs Johnson (then Ms Symonds) questioned how Mr Pincher had ever ended up in the whips’ office in correspondence seen by Sky News.
The exchanges followed Mr Pincher’s resignation as assistant whip after claims of unwanted sexual advances from a Tory candidate.Politics Hub: Tory sleaze ‘infinitely worse’ than Major eraMr Pincher referred himself to the police and the Conservative Party complaints procedure and was later cleared of wrongdoing.

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Theresa May reappointed Mr Pincher to the whips’ office in 2018.
A Number 10 spokesperson said: “Mrs Johnson is a private individual and has no role in ministerial appointments.”

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Earlier on Monday, Downing Street confirmed Boris Johnson knew of media reports about the conduct of Mr Pincher when he made him deputy chief whip but felt he could not act on unsubstantiated claims.The prime minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson was “not aware of any specific allegations being looked at” and “in the absence of formal complaint, it was not deemed appropriate to stop an appointment on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations”.But he said the prime minister was “aware of media reports that others had seen over the years and some allegations that were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint”, so sought advice from his propriety and ethics team before the appointment.Mr Pincher quit the role last week after he was accused of drunkenly groping two men at a private members’ club in London on Wednesday.The Tory whip was only removed from him on Friday afternoon, meaning he now sits as an independent MP.Mr Pincher has denied the allegations to the newspapers that carried them.

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3:32

The PM is facing questions over how much he knew about claims concerning Chris Pincher’s conduct before he appointed him deputy chief whip.

It was the second time the MP for Tamworth in Staffordshire resigned from the whips’ office, after Conservative candidate Alex Story accused him of making an inappropriate advance in 2017.Questions have been raised about what the prime minister knew before appointing Mr Pincher in February, with allegations by former chief of staff Dominic Cummings that Mr Johnson referred to the MP as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” beforehand.The prime minister’s official spokesperson declined to comment on this claim.Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News the appointment of Mr Pincher as deputy chief whip was another example of poor judgment by Mr Johnson.”It’s bad judgment by the PM, a man who puts himself above everyone else – and no, I’m afraid I don’t have any sympathy for him,” the Labour leader told Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby.Asked if he would have appointed Mr Pincher if he had been prime minister, Sir Keir replied: “No, I wouldn’t.”
Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds has written to the PM demanding answers, claiming Mr Johnson is “clearly happy to sweep sexual misconduct under the carpet in order to save his own skin”.Mr Pincher now faces an investigation by Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme after one of the men he allegedly groped last week at the Carlton Club submitted a formal complaint.In a statement at the weekend, Mr Pincher said he would cooperate fully with the inquiry.

Starmer rules out rejoining EU as he lays out plan to tackle Brexit problems

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Sir Keir Starmer has ruled out rejoining the European Union as he laid out Labour’s plan to tackle issues caused by Brexit.Presenting a five-point plan to deal with Brexit, the Labour leader said his party has been “claiming the centre ground of British politics once again” while the Conservatives are “flailing around”.
He said the plan is part of getting “Britain’s economy growing once again” – and he will be saying “a lot more” about how to achieve that in the coming weeks and months.Sir Keir was clear that Labour will not try to rejoin the UK to the EU as that would “simply be a recipe for more division” and would ensure Britain “remained stuck for another decade”.And in a play on Boris Johnson’s campaign slogan “get Brexit done”, he said the plan will “make Brexit work”.

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This is his plan:
1. The Northern Ireland Protocol: Labour would build trust by being an “honest broker” and eliminate most border checks with a new veterinary agreement for agri-products between the UK and EU.

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It would work with business to put in place a better scheme to allow low-risk goods to enter Northern Ireland “without unnecessary checks”.2. Trade barriers: Labour would “make trade easier” outside the single market and customs union by extending the new veterinary agreement to cover all the UK.It would “build on agreements and mechanisms already in place between the EU and other countries”.3. British industry: Labour would have mutual recognition of professional qualifications so British services “can compete”.It would also restore access to funding and vital research programmes.4. Keep Britain safe: Labour would seek new security arrangements to defend the borders, including sharing data, intelligence and best practice.A joint intelligence network would be set up between the UK and Europe.5. Invest in Britain: Labour would work with businesses to “bring the good, clean jobs of the future to our shores”.Together, they would “open up new markets and create new opportunities”, using the flexibility of being outside the EU “to ensure British regulation is adapted to suit British needs”.Read more on Sky News:What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and why does it matter?EU chief tells UK ‘it’s high time we got Brexit done’Ahead of the announcement, Sir Keir told Sky News’ Beth Rigby: “We’re not going back to the EU, to the single market, to the customs union or freedom of movement.”We are going forwards not backwards, not reopening those divisions.”I don’t think reopening all the old wounds and going backwards is going to help us on that mission to drive the economy.”The current Brexit deal is “not a good deal”, he said, adding that it is causing problems in Northern Ireland and the agreements on services and security are not good enough.”This is a forward-looking plan, it’s not a plan to go back, it’s not a plan to rejoin the EU,” he insisted.Sir Keir said he is “absolutely convinced” there are “practical ways” to solve the current issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol – part of the Brexit deal that has effectively placed a border in the Irish Sea despite Mr Johnson insisting it would not.
Looking ahead to the next general election, which is supposed to be in 2024, he added: “This will be the driving mission of an incoming Labour government – to grow the economy.”Sir Keir said he did not regret campaigning for a second Brexit referendum, something that is credited with helping Labour to lose the last election.”We made our policy in the circumstances that were then the live circumstances, but we’ve left the EU now and the government has said we need to get Brexit done, but it hasn’t really got a plan to do that,” he added.”I want to make Brexit work.”But responding to Sir Keir’s five-point plan, Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg accused the Labour leader of seeking to leave the EU in the same way as the Conservatives, but “half-cock”.”I’m fascinated by what he’s got to say, or reports of it… and what he wants to do, by and large, is things either that the Conservatives are doing (because) they want to change the Northern Ireland Protocol, so I hope he’ll support us on our bill,” he told LBC’s Tonight With Andrew Marr.”And he wants recognition of qualifications, which we’ve already legislated for. So you do wonder if he was half asleep last year.”I think all that Sir Keir is going to be saying later on today is that he wants to do what the Conservatives are doing but half-cock, so it’s not much of an announcement by him today.”

MPs to debate assisted dying after petition reaches 100,000 signatures

Sky News politics

Assisted dying will be debated in the House of Commons today, after a petition calling for its legalisation reached the required number of 100,000 signatures.Under the Suicide Act, 1961, it is currently a criminal offence to help someone to take their own life, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
The most recent attempt to change the law failed in the House of Lords in April because the government did not allocate sufficient time for it to pass its various legislative stages.Henry Marsh, one of the UK’s leading brain surgeons, who suffers from terminal cancer, has called for an urgent inquiry into the issue.He told Sky News: “A certain number of people, including myself, fear the loss of autonomy and dignity that so often comes with death. I must have operated on hundreds of men with advanced prostate cancer which has spread to the spine. And this causes progressive paralysis.

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“So a large number of men with prostate cancer die paralysed, doubly incontinent, bed-ridden. I want some choice in the matter as to how, if that happens to me, I can say enough is enough.
“I want to get it over with surrounded by my family in my own home.”
There is evidence of a striking mismatch between public opinion and that of MPs on the issue.A YouGov poll last year found that while 73% of people thought that assisted dying should be legalised for the terminally ill, just 35% of MPs agreed.Others argue that the answer lies not in changing the law, but in improving palliative care.

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7:10

What is assisted dying?

Dr Mark Pickering from the campaign group Care Not Killing said: “Many of the heartbreaking stories that we hear driving the assisted suicide debate are of people who sadly did not get the right palliative care, and did not have access to the best support at the time of their dying or their loved ones dying. We really need to fix that.”In Scotland, Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur has introduced a bill that would allow terminally ill people to end their lives.A number of countries have legalised assisted suicide: the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Spain, Canada and New Zealand, as well as several US states such as California and New Jersey.Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email [email protected] in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.

UK to pledge to 'do everything possible to ensure Ukraine wins war'

Sky News politics

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will pledge that the UK will “do everything possible to ensure Ukraine wins the war and recovers”.She will tell the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Switzerland today that the UK will support the embattled nation for the “long haul” and resist Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
The Foreign Office said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked the UK to champion the recovery of the capital Kyiv and the surrounding region.But attempts to rebuild the area are made more challenging by Russia’s ability to hit the capital with missiles as the Kremlin’s forces slowly advance in the east.Ms Truss will use the conference in the city of Lugano to set out a vision to give both immediate and long-term support to Ukraine.

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Other developments:
In his nightly address, Mr Zelenskyy acknowledged Ukrainian forces had withdrawn from the key city of Lysychansk in the Donbas but vowed they would retake itEight Ukrainian city and village leaders are being held captive in Russia, according to The Association of Cities of UkraineUkrainian forces have repelled Russian advances in Novomykhailivka, Bohorodychne, and IvanivkaA Russian mine detonated, killing one civilian and injuring another in the Odesa region”Ukraine’s recovery from Russia’s war of aggression will be a symbol of the power of democracy over autocracy. It will show Putin that his attempts to destroy Ukraine have only produced a stronger, more prosperous and more united nation,” she is expected to say.

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“The UK is resolute in its support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and will remain at Ukraine’s side as it emerges as a strong, thriving and cutting-edge democracy.”We have led on support for Ukraine during the war and will continue to lead in supporting the Ukrainian government’s reconstruction and development plan.”

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4:33

Russia says it controls Lysychansk

Ms Truss will announce plans to host next year’s recovery conference as the government commits to a Marshall Plan-style programme, a reference to the one used to rebuild Europe after the Second World War.”The UK will do everything possible to ensure Ukraine wins the war and recovers. We need to be in this for the long haul,” she is expected to add.Russia captures Lysychansk – Zelenskyy vows to retake key city: Follow live updatesMoscow is focusing its assault on the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk after President Putin withdrew his troops from the offensive in Kyiv after they faced fierce resistance.
Subscribe to Ukraine War Diaries on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and SpreakerOn Sunday, President Zelenskyy acknowledged Ukrainian forces had withdrawn from Lysychansk after a grinding Russian assault, but vowed to regain control over the area with the help of long-range Western weapons.Russia said its capture of Lysychansk less than a week after taking neighbouring Severodonetsk gave it full control of the eastern Luhansk region.Last week, Russia hit Kyiv with missile strikes in what Ukraine said was an intimidation attempt as the city’s people attempt to return to normal life while under siege.

Childcare changes to help tackle cost of living 'not a silver bullet or panacea', says minister

Sky News politics

A shake-up of childcare rules will be announced this week, aiming to save money for hundreds of thousands of families by allowing staff to look after more children.The government plans to increase the number of two-year-olds who can be cared for by one adult in a nursery from four to five, billed as helping parents with the cost of living.
It is claimed the England-only move could eventually save families up to £40 a week – or 15% – for those who pay £265 a week for a two-year-old, if childcare providers take it up and pass on the savings to parents.But the sector say this is highly unlikely to be the case, and children’s minister Will Quince told Sky News the ratio changes alone would not be a “silver bullet or panacea” for family finances in the short-term.Speaking during a trip to Paris where he visited French nurseries that operate a higher ratio of staff to children, the Tory frontbencher sought to reassure parents that childcare providers would not be forced to adopt the changes.

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He said: “If I thought it would compromise safety or quality, I would not be doing it.
“I was being pushed by some in and out of government to look at much bolder ratio reform, but I’ve said quality and safety is our priority.”

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Childcare in the UK is among the most expensive in Europe, with the care for the youngest children the most costly.Full-time care for a toddler costs an average of £936 a month in the UK – 48% of the average wage.In France, where the legal ratio of adults to children is one to eight for two-year-olds, the average price for full-time care is £511, or 26% of the average wage, according to figures published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.Childcare in France is heavily state-subsidised and staff must all be fully qualified, which is not the case in the UK.

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Children’s minister Will Quince says he would not compromise safety or quality

Mr Quince visited a council-run creche in central Paris to hear about the system, but insisted the reform proposed in the UK would be far more limited.Referring to the French ratio, he said: “That would be a step too far for a number of reasons, and what we are proposing and consulting on is actually a considerably smaller and minor change.”The ratio change in itself is no silver bullet or panacea or magic bullet, it is not going to significantly change costs, because what we don’t expect is settings to routinely or religiously go to one to five.”Most don’t currently go to one to four.”This is more about flexibility and it’s important to stress that this is part of a much wider package.”The government have also been focusing on trying to increase the take-up of tax-free childcare, which 1.3 million families are eligible for – up to £2,000 a year.Last year just 384,000 families – less than a third of those eligible – took it up.The childcare sector is bitterly opposed to the ratio changes, which they say will put staff under pressure and that any costs saved by having more children are unlikely to be passed on due to years of underfunding.The changes being proposed are more limited than those suggested by Liz Truss when she was childcare minister in 2013 and proposed one adult for every six two-year-olds.A backlash from nurseries and parents saw the plans shelved.Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance told Sky News said he hoped these plans would also be dropped.He said: “There’s no case for it whatsoever.”The problem we have in early years is nothing to do with the number of staff, it’s down to the fact that the sector has been grossly underfunded for decades.”What’s more, such a policy would do little, if anything, to lower costs for parents.”We know that the vast majority providers plan to keep their ratios as they are, regardless of any regulation changes, in order to maintain quality levels – and even if a minority did relax their ratios, any savings would be used to recoup years of historic losses, not lower fees.”

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The nursery sector is bitterly opposed to the ratio changes

At Little Ladybirds nursery in North London, manager – and former teacher – Fiona Doyle and her two staff look after eight children.She said she would be unlikely to follow the new ratios.”Whether it’s naptimes, mealtimes, taking them to the park, someone’s had an accident, one adult to four children is a lot,” she said.”I honestly can’t find a single childcare provider, a single parent, anybody who actually thinks this is a good idea, it would be an absolute disaster.”The more children we have, the less time we have to spend on their personalised learning, their development, at every angle it just doesn’t make sense.”She said parents pay her the equivalent of £7 an hour for a 10 hour day.Keilly Swift, whose toddler attends the nursery, said the monthly payments are “a huge drain on our finances, although this is not a particularly expensive nursery”.But she said: “I don’t think making the people in charge of my children and giving them the best possible care more burdened, with more stress and extra workload.”It doesn’t seem like the right way to achieve lowering the costs.”Mr Quince said Boris Johnson had taken a strong personal interest in the issue, because high childcare costs were holding back women, in particular, from the workplace.He added: “I’ve spent many occasions over the past ten months meeting with settings and speaking with individual providers and those who work in early years have said actually a little more flexibility on occasion would actually be helpful.”Also when I speak to parents and they say ‘Well we do need the places and we need to go to work and we want our child educated, we don’t want to be let down last minute and if that means giving settings just that little bit more flexibility around one to five instead of one to four on occasion’.”This is a legal cap, a maximum, it’s not a target, it’s not something we want settings to aim towards.”It’s about giving those settings the flexibility and the autonomy to make the decision about what’s right in terms of quality and safety for their setting.”Scotland already has a ratio of one adult to five two-year-olds, but in Wales it is one to four – currently the same as England – and there are no plans to change it.

Shutting Westminster bars not needed as MP scandals 'bigger than hospitality arrangements'

Sky News politics

Bar closures in Parliament are not needed to prevent MP scandals, senior politicians agree, as it was argued the cause is “bigger than the hospitality arrangements”.Frontbenchers from both main parties pointed out few of the recent misconduct controversies had actually happened in hostelries at Westminster.
Chris Pincher, MP for Tamworth in Staffordshire, quit as Tory deputy chief whip – responsible for party discipline – after he was accused of drunkenly groping two men at the members-only Carlton Club.Politics latest: Minister insists it ‘isn’t the case’ there is a problem with male Tory MPsBoris Johnson bowed to demands to withdraw the whip from Mr Pincher, meaning he will now sit in the Commons as an independent, after an official investigation was launched.

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There are several bars on the parliamentary estate, including the Woolsack and Strangers’ Bar.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “I think, in terms of Parliament’s bars, we have a particular sort of working hours and a lot of these situations you’re referring to I don’t think happened in the bars.

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“That’s a matter, I guess, for discussion in Parliament but we’ve already reduced the number of drinking and eating outlets in Parliament.”What does matter in terms of culture is actually being a government and a Parliament that gets on and delivers the priorities of the people and that’s what we will continue to do.”Labour’s shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds also told Ridge he did not believe the parliamentary bars are the issue.

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4:08

PM ‘not aware of specific claims’ against Pincher

He said: “I don’t think Parliament has the kind of modern workplace culture that it should have, I think there’s further to go on that.”But I would just say, if you look at these particular incidents, actually few of them are in Parliament itself, so for me it comes down to something bigger than the hospitality arrangements.”It’s about power, it’s about accountability, it’s about the standards that are set by the leader of each political party, and I cannot see Boris Johnson as being the kind of person to somehow improve the culture of the Conservative Party.”Pointing out there is “only one major bar for members of Parliament, there’s one for staff as well”, Mr Reynolds added: “I don’t think that is the issue.”You can shut every bar in Westminster but if you have got a Conservative party that does not take these issues seriously, that gives people a get out of jail free card.
Pressed over whether a drinking culture was fostered due to the bars, the Labour MP said: “I wouldn’t say it’s encouraged.”Most people are doing an incredibly professional job and there is a bar for staff members and that is to be honest absolutely fine.”What I am trying to say to you is, this is not the core of the issue, particular the Chris Pincher case was at the Conservative Party’s private members’ club, the Carlton Club.”We have got to address the core of this which is the whole behaviour which is being set from the top.”