Six fresh claims of inappropriate behaviour against former Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher have emerged, adding further fuel to the latest firestorm to engulf the UK government.
The new allegations, dating back more than 10 years, came to light days after Mr Pincher resigned from his government post amid groping allegations, admitting he had drunk “far too much”.
He was suspended as a Tory MP shortly after handing in his resignation, pending an investigation.
The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday and The Independent newspapers reported the new claims, which included three cases where Mr Pincher is accused of making unwanted advances to male MPs.
Former No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings alleged that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s had knowledge of claims made against Mr Pincher before he appointed him deputy chief whip in February.
Mr Pincher had already quit the whips’ office in 2017 after a complaint that he had made an unwanted pass at former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story.
At the time a young Tory activist, Mr Story alleged that year that the MP untucked the back of his shirt, massaged his neck and whispered: “You’ll go far in the Tory Party.”
Government minister Therese Coffey on Sunday defended Mr Johnson, saying: “I am aware that the prime minister was not aware of specific claims that had been made.”
“I don’t believe he was aware, that’s what I’ve been told today,” the work and pensions secretary told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
Mr Pincher on Saturday promised to seek “professional medical support” and said he hoped to return to his duties “as soon as possible”.
He said he was “truly sorry” and vowed to fully co-operate with the inquiry into his drunken behaviour at a private members' club in London.
Mr Johnson had declined to punish Mr Pincher but changed his mind after coming under pressure from his own and opposition MPs.
“I respect the prime minister's decision to suspend the whip while an inquiry is under way, and I will co-operate fully with it,” Mr Pincher said.
“As I told the prime minister, I drank far too much on Wednesday night, embarrassing myself and others, and I am truly sorry for the upset I caused.
“The stresses of the last few days, coming on top of those over the last several months, have made me accept that I will benefit from professional medical support.
“I am in the process of seeking that now, and I hope to be able to return to my constituency duties as soon as possible.”
Immediately after the allegations emerged, he resigned as deputy chief whip and had Mr Johnson’s support. A day later, that support was withdrawn and he was suspended.
Now sitting as an independent, Mr Pincher, MP for Tamworth, Staffordshire, is battling to remain in the House of Commons despite opponents insisting his position is untenable.
Neil Parish, the former Conservative MP pressured to resign from the Commons after watching pornography in Parliament, accused Downing Street of “double standards”.
Tory backbencher Andrew Bridgen echoed the sentiment, suggesting Mr Pincher was being treated differently because he is an “arch-loyalist” to the prime minister.
Mr Pincher is known as a loyal Conservative. As deputy chief whip he ensured MPs voted with the party and maintained discipline among party members.
The scandal is another blow for the prime minister, who has been punished by voters in recent by-elections.
He also had to win a confidence vote, caused primarily by his role in the partygate affair, during which lockdown-breaking parties were held in government offices, including No 10 Downing Street.
Mr Pincher has been MP for Tamworth since 2010 and was a minister under former prime minister Theresa May.
He was appointed alongside chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris last February to strengthen party discipline amid unrest among MPs over the way the government was being run.