Boris Johnson accused of minimising sexual harassment with alcohol comments

Independent

The prime minister has been accused of minimising sexual assault by appearing to blame alcohol for predatory behaviour.

While being questioned about his handling of the conduct of Conservative former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, Boris Johnson told parliament’s Liaison Committee: “Some people simply can’t take their drink.”

Conservative committee member Caroline Nokes asked if he was presenting alcohol as an “excuse” for sexual harassment and said he had minimised the issue.

Mr Johnson denied the accusation, telling the committee: “I observed that some people seem to get very drunk but that in no way minimises the underlying pattern of behaviour.”

“That’s what you’ve just done,” Mr Nokes responded. An MP who was present during an incident involving Mr Pincher on Wednesday night at the Carlton Club said the prime minister had used alcohol in an attempt to “absolve Mr Pincher of his actions”.

In a letter resigning his position as a parliamentary private secretary, Mark Fletcher said he personally intervened in the “very serious situation” and reported it to the chief whip.

Mr Fletcher said that he raised concerns with Mr Johnson over Mr Pincher being allowed to retain the party whip on Friday and was reassured when he was kicked out of the Conservative Party later that day.

“However, in our conversation in the tearoom yesterday, you suggested that the events of that night were the fault of the colleagues who were present for allowing him to drink too much,” Mr Fletcher wrote to the prime minister.

“Such a view seems to me an attempt to absolve Mr Pincher of his actions and, in so doing, to be an apologist for someone who has committed sexual assault.

“I am unable to accept such a crass and insensitive interpretation of what happened…any person who suggests that anyone other than Mr Pincher is solely responsible for what happened that night is unfit to lead our country. To take any other position does…

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