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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Number Ten caught out in a lie

The list of Boris Johnson's lies and evasions is almost as long as the list of aides, Ministers and MPs who are prepared to go on the record in supporting and enabling him, and once again, it seems, the latest spin has been found out to be untrue.

The Guardian reports that the Prime Minister's claim that he was not aware of prior specific allegations against Chris Pincher is falling apart, after a former top civil servant wrote a formal letter to allege that Downing Street’s version of events was untrue.

The paper says that Simon McDonald, who had been the most senior official in the Foreign Office and is now a crossbench peer, told the parliamentary standards commissioner that the prime minister was briefed in person about a 2019 complaint about alleged groping by the former Tory deputy chief whip.

Despite this, Dominic Raab, who was Foreign Secretary at the time, is still casting doubt on whether Johnson was briefed or not:

McDonald’s letter, sent to Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary standards commissioner, and tweeted on Tuesday morning, appears to demolish the insistence of No 10 spokespeople and a series of ministers that Johnson was not aware of any “specific” allegations against Pincher before last week.

On Monday, Johnson’s official spokesman amended this to argue that the prime minister had been aware of allegations, but that these were “either resolved or did not proceed to a formal complaint”.

In a scathing letter, McDonald, a long-time senior diplomat who was permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office from 2015 to 2020 and became a peer in 2021, made it clear he believed this was also untrue.

In the summer of 2019, shortly after Pincher became a Foreign Office minister, McDonald wrote, a group of officials complained about his behaviour, McDonald said, saying the claims were “similar” to those that emerged last week. An investigation upheld the complaint and Pincher apologised, he added.

It was, McDonald wrote, “not true” for No 10 to either claim Johnson knew about no earlier complaints, or the amended line about the only complaint he knew about being unsubstantiated.

“Mr Johnson was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation,” the letter said. “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.”

He added: “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.”

Just another day in the Number 10 kindergarten, I suppose.
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