Tory MPs feel sorry for 'decent guy' Pincher, says Michael Fabricant
Conservative MP Michael Fabricant said it was a shame that "decent guy" Chris Pincher did not get treatment for a drink problem before he was involved in an alleged groping scandal.
He said Tory MPs felt "very sorry" for Mr Pincher, who resigned as Tory deputy chief whip following allegations he drunkenly groped two men at a London members' club.
In a round of media interviews, the Lichfield MP also leapt to the defence of Boris Johnson, who faces mounting pressure after retired civil servant Lord McDonald revealed the PM was briefed "in person" about an investigation into Mr Pincher's conduct in 2019.
No 10 has been accused of shifting its account of what Mr Johnson knew of Mr Pincher's past conduct when he made him deputy chief whip in February.
Mr Fabricant was asked about the scandal in an interview with 5Live. He said: "On the one hand, of course, we're all very sorry for people who've been affected by Chris's action's but we also quite frankly feel very sorry for Chris in many ways."
He added that many Tory MPs felt that Mr Pincher was "also in his own way, a victim".
In a separate interview with GB News, he said: "Not that I'm condoning it but the guy was drunk. He had real problems, and still does, Chris Pincher, on that front.
"And what I do know is that Chris Pincher has now been referred to a clinical psychiatrist and is now getting treatment for this.
"It's such a shame that it didn't happen sooner. A shame for those who were the victims, and a shame also for Chris Pincher who is a decent guy."
Launching a defence of Boris Johnson, Mr Fabricant said: "If the PM has two weaknesses, it's one believing that you're innocent until proven guilty, and the second one is loyalty.
"Chris Pincher had been loyal to him, and I guess he wanted to be loyal to Chris Pincher.
"But it would have been equally wrong to condemn Chris Pincher, take away the whip and all the rest of it before even a complaint was made."
Mr Fabricant also insisted that the PM would "get through this" as "eventually people will begin to take this whole thing in perspective and we will move on".
Walsall-born Mr Pincher has faced further allegations since he stepped down last week - which he has denied - while the PM has been urged to "come clean" on what he knew about his past when he appointed him.
Lord McDonald, a former permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, said the account given by Downing Street of how Mr Pincher came to be made deputy chief whip was “not true”.
In a formal complaint to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, he said that in the summer of 2019, shortly after Mr Pincher was made Europe minister, a complaint by a group of officials about his conduct was investigated and upheld, and the PM informed of the outcome.
Downing Street initially claimed that Mr Johnson had not been aware of any "specific allegations" against Mr Pincher at the time of the February reshuffle.
Following reports over the weekend of repeated alleged instances of Mr Pincher making unwanted sexual advances to men, it said that while the PM had known of concerns, they had been either "resolved" or there had been no formal complaint and that any allegations were unsubstantiated.
However, Lord McDonald said this was still not accurate.
"Mr Johnson was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation. There was a 'formal complaint'," he wrote.
"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."
Opposition parties have accused the PM of lying.
Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden, Labour's Shadow Treasury Secretary, said the letter from Lord McDonald "speaks volumes" about Mr Johnson.
"The Tory story has changed by the hour on this," he said.
"It is now clear the PM knew about Mr Pincher's conduct when he appointed him as deputy chief whip.
"A complaint was upheld and confirmed yet the PM still appointed him.
"He has yet again made those sent out to defend him look foolish. And he has shown little regard for the victims in all of this."
Helen Morgan, Lib Dem MP for North Shropshire, said: "After taking too long to act and withdraw the whip, Boris Johnson now needs to be honest about the process around Chris Pincher’s appointment and the complaints made against him.
"Number 10 needs to stop covering up and start being honest and transparent with the public."
John Spellar, Labour MP for Warley, said: "A very senior civil servant has explicitly said that Johnson was briefed, so the Cabinet members who went out to defend him must be feeling sick.
"When are they going to grow some backbone and decide enough is enough? Either he goes or they go."