A British lawmaker accused of drunkenly groping two men at a private members’ club should be suspended from Parliament for eight weeks for “completely unacceptable” conduct, a standards watchdog said Thursday.
The ruling will likely result in Chris Pincher being ejected from the House of Commons by his constituents, triggering a special election for his seat. It’s one of a handful of unwelcome byelections that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government faces as it grapples with a stuttering economy and sinking popularity.
Pincher resigned as Conservative Party deputy chief whip almost a year ago over allegations he had assaulted two strangers at a London club. The allegations helped topple then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who faced questions about whether he knew about misconduct claims when he gave Pincher a job as a whip responsible for enforcing party discipline.
The scandal was a final straw that prompted a string of ministers to resign from Johnson’s government. Johnson was forced to step down as prime minister but remained a lawmaker until he quit last month after being censured for lying to Parliament about rule-breaking government parties during the coronavirus pandemic.
If lawmakers approve the eight-week suspension as expected, Pincher’s constituents would be able to recall him by petition, triggering an election for his seat in the House of Commons. Three other elections are scheduled for later this month to fill the seats vacated by Johnson and two of his allies.
The committee’s ruling also reawakens discussion about bad behavior in British politics. Long known for its boozy, macho atmosphere, Parliament is now a more diverse place, but lawmakers and staff say bullying, harassment and inappropriate behavior still are rife under a system that largely allows legislators to regulate themselves.