Live: Boris Johnson fights for survival; 2 UK cabinet ministers resign

Live: Boris Johnson fights for survival;  2 UK cabinet ministers resign
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Credit …Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

When a little-known member of the British parliament got drunk at an exclusive club last week and then staggered out into a warm London night, few would have thought he would throw the government into chaos and threaten the leadership of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Alcohol and late nights are nothing out of the ordinary in British politics, so Chris Pincher’s actions could easily have gone unnoticed.

But a week later, a spreading scandal has highlighted three fundamental problems facing Mr. Johnson’s government: competition, trust and, above all, trust.

On Tuesday, the fallout increased when Rishi Sunak, the finance minister, and Sajid Javid, the health secretary, resigned from the government in letters to Mr Johnson that only thinly disguised their loss of faith in his leadership.

Mister. Pincher, 52, an MP for Tamworth in the Midlands, had almost no national profile. But within British politics he had cultivated a reputation as a fierce loyalist to Mr Johnson and an expert in the art of cajoling other Conservative Party lawmakers into voting on government issues. For those attributes, Mr. Johnson appointed him junior minister in 2019 and then, in February, whip deputy, charged with running government affairs.

In this latter task, his colleagues said, he was unusually efficient, helping to organize a sub-radar operation dubbed, at least by some, “Operation Save Big Dog” that allowed Mr. Johnson to survive last month, albeit narrowly, vote of confidence by his colleagues in Parliament.

However, there was a problem. Mister. Pincher had been in the office of the whip before, but in 2017 he was forced to resign after allegations that he had made an unwelcome advance on a conservative activist, a former professional rower named Alex Story. A misconduct complaint was also filed against Mr. Pincher in 2019 when he was working at the Foreign Office.

it was Mr. Johnson’s decision to bring him back into government that is at the root of the current crisis.

Last Wednesday, Mr. Pincher attended a Conservative Friends of Cyprus event at the Carlton Club in one of London’s most exclusive neighborhoods, not far from Buckingham Palace. He has been accused of groping two men while he was there. Witnesses said he was so drunk they had to put him in a taxi.

The next day, repentant, he wrote a letter on House of Commons letterhead to Mr. Johnson, offering his resignation as deputy whip. “Last night I drank too much,” he said. “I have embarrassed myself and other people, which is the last thing I want to do and for that I apologize to you and those involved.”

That was not the end. The government insisted for days that Mr. Johnson did not know of any previous allegations, but it later emerged that he knew of the 2019 complaint but named Mr. Pincher deputy whip. Former senior Foreign Office official Simon McDonald published a public letter on Tuesday accusing Downing Street of distorting the facts.

Opposition lawmakers demanded that Mr. Pincher resign from Parliament. Government ministers sent to defend Mr. Johnson’s handling of the matter in radio and television interviews seemed awkward.

Through it all, Mr. Pincher has remained silent, avoiding the spotlight and denying the substantive allegations against him.

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