Rishi Sunak finds himself confronted with another challenging vote to fill a vacant parliamentary seat, following an announcement by a lawmaker who had been handed an eight-week suspension for groping two men at a London club last year, revealing his intention to resign.
Chris Pincher, who now sits as an independent, announced on Thursday (7) that he would leave the House of Commons more than a year after he was suspended from the ruling Conservative Party by then-prime minister Boris Johnson last year.
Johnson’s initial perceived downplaying of the allegations added to pressure that ultimately led to Johnson’s resignation as prime minister.
Pincher had argued that his suspension was disproportionate. But he lost that appeal on Monday and faced removal by his constituents due to the length of the suspension.
“I do not want my constituents to be put to further uncertainty,” he said in a statement. “I have made arrangements to resign and leave the Commons.”
The timing of the resignation could mean that the vote to replace him is held on the same day as a by-election to replace former culture minister and Sunak critic Nadine Dorries. That vote is being held on Oct. 19.
The votes could intensify pressure on Sunak, whose Conservative Party lost two out of three parliamentary seats contested in July, and who is struggling to re-energise his premiership ahead of a national election expected next year.
The Conservatives are trailing behind the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls and – as a scandal over crumbling concrete in schools is damaging Sunak’s hopes of a recovery – more defeats would be a further embarrassment.
Two men told parliament’s standards committee that Pincher touched them inappropriately at the private members’ Carlton Club last year. The committee said in its June report that the physical contact was “unwanted, upsetting and deeply inappropriate”.
Pincher has apologised for his behaviour and said he had been unable to recall the events.