As the coup that toppled Boris Johnson unfolded, I watched almost in disbelief.
Britain’s most successful Conservative Prime Minister in 30 years has been forced to resign over a scandal that was not his fault.
A group of ambitious ministers and their cronies had taken it upon themselves to overthrow him, aided and abetted by broadcast media that seemed determined to turn petty peccadilloes into earth-shattering scandals.
Meanwhile, his many accomplishments, such as getting Brexit done, organizing a world-beating Covid vaccination program and supporting Ukraine all the way while others wavered, have been mocked, belittled and ultimately ignored.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was the Chris Pincher affair, the revelation that the party’s Deputy Chief Whip had committed a series of sexual assaults on young men and that the Prime Minister had been made aware of the allegations three years earlier.
Fallout: Boris Johnson with disgraced MP and former Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher
The day after Downing Street’s confirmation, Health Secretary Sajid Javid resigned, followed minutes later by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Both men sprang pieties over concepts such as ‘competence’ and ‘integrity’ but the truth, it seems to me, was that they had fragrant blood and it wasn’t long before others do the same.
Within hours Boris was dead in the water and he quit less than 48 hours later.
The tragedy of this is not just that a great man is leaving No10, but the scandal that caused his downfall was a ticking time bomb left behind by his predecessor Theresa May.
And no one is better placed than me to make that allegation – because I was embroiled in this whole horrible affair from the start.
In 2001, I was an idealistic Tory activist hoping for a career at Westminster.
I had been on the 1996 UK rowing team at the Atlanta Olympics and one of Cambridge’s eight winners in the varsity race twice but, due to a back injury, my career athlete had ended the bidding. the age of 26.
“I had been on the 1996 UK rowing team at the Atlanta Olympics and one of Cambridge’s eight winners in the varsity race twice,” said Alex Story.
Now I wanted to dedicate myself to public service and so I joined the Conservative HQ team in London to help with cold calling. After a long day of phoning, I joined a group of colleagues for a drink in a nearby pub. Among the group was Chris Pincher, who was about six years older than me and had previously stood as a candidate in the 1997 parliamentary election.
Chris suggested we head to a restaurant, but once we were in a taxi he announced that he had to stop at his apartment first.
Maybe I was naive, but I didn’t suspect a thing until, as I sat down on his couch, he started fumbling with my clothes, unfolding my shirt.
Then he tried to massage my shoulder, whispering, “You’ll go far in the Conservative Party. I clarified that I was straight and tried to dismiss it with a joke: “We only just met, let’s stay friends.”
He retreated to another room – and when he reappeared, I was surprised to see he was wearing a robe open to the waist.
It was both obscene and comical. The phrase I later used was that he sounded like “bookseller Harvey Weinstein,” a reference to the Hollywood producer currently serving time in prison for assaulting young women.
Twenty years ago, when the social climate was very different, the story of my ordeal provoked the hilarity of my rowing friends.
But it took on a very different complexion in 2010 when Pincher became a Tory MP and then became a high-flyer under Theresa May and her chancellor, Philip Hammond.
The man I had seen as a filthy sexual predator was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Mr Hammond in 2015 when he was Foreign Secretary.
The scandal that caused his downfall was a time bomb left behind by his predecessor Theresa May
“The straw that broke the camel’s back was the Chris Pincher affair, the revelation that the party’s Deputy Chief Whip had committed a series of sexual assaults on young men and that the Prime Minister had been made aware of the allegations three years earlier”
Two years later, after Ms May became Prime Minister, Pincher was elevated to Comptroller of the House – a high-flying title given to a deputy whip – despite other sex allegations swirling around him.
I was still a Conservative activist – having been a candidate for Parliament three times – and, as someone who had not given up hope of becoming an MEP, I hated to see my party dragged into the mire, but I decided that, unpleasant as it was, I had to speak up.
My story was published in the Mail on Sunday, and a few days later Pincher resigned from the whips department, referring to the police. It should have been the end of his career.
But while there was an inquest she didn’t even speak to me and I was stunned to see him rehabilitated and promoted by Mrs May two months later.
It was his woeful lack of judgment that was exploited by Boris’s enemies, forcing him out of Number 10 despite leading the party to its biggest election victory since Margaret Thatcher won a third term in 1987.
It is Theresa May’s atrocious judgment that is at the heart of this mess and, if there was justice, it would be her reputation and not Boris’s that would be in ruins.
But justice is the last thing we expect from Westminster, following this frantic act of self-sabotage by Tory MPs.
For me, this seedy incident was the beginning of my disillusionment with politics. Today, I work in finance, I am married and the father of four adorable children, but I no longer have any political ambitions. The lie of that little cabal of MPs who expelled Boris makes me glad I have nothing to do with Westminster.
However, I cannot remain silent, knowing how dishonest and dishonorable the charges against him were.
Former Olympic rower Alex Story previously said the investigation into Chris Pincher under Theresa May was a joke
His enemies knew they would never beat him in an open vote. Boris was by far the most popular and charismatic politician of his generation, both among Conservative party members and among ordinary voters.
He proved it time and time again, winning in London to become mayor and then tipping the scales for Brexit.
Indeed, it is difficult to exaggerate the “Boris effect” at the ballot box. Under Ms May in the 2019 European elections, the Conservative Party won less than 9% of the vote. Six months later, with Boris at the helm, the party rebounded to 43.6% of the vote in the general election – the highest vote share since Mrs Thatcher’s first election victory in 1979.
Boris redrew Britain’s electoral map, as his personality transcended political labels.
A recent survey of 15,000 people showed that 85% of those polled wanted Boris to withdraw his resignation.
Inside the Conservative Party, former Treasurer Lord Peter Cruddas, a self-made man with a strong affinity for members, has launched a petition ‘to give the Tory stalwarts a vote on whether or not to accept Boris’s resignation “.
“The ousting of Boris Johnson as prime minister by a minority of MPs is deeply undemocratic,” he said. “I’m ashamed that this could happen in Britain, the birthplace of modern democracy.”
By the time the ink was dry on Lord Cruddas’ article, thousands of people had already signed the petition – despite hackers’ attempts to shut down the website.
Political titans like Maggie and Boris happen once every 50 years if we’re lucky.
To overthrow a triumphant victor and replace him with a Rishi Sunak or a Liz Truss is political madness.
Party members know this. Every poll shows that if Boris Johnson’s name were added to the leadership ballot, he would win at a gallop.
And that is exactly what the party should do, if it is not to hand over power to Sir Keir Starmer’s Labor Party at the next general election.
If Boris is not reinstated it will be because of the venomous betrayal of around 30 or 40 Tory MPs who simply do not want to see him removed from office. They intend to see him humiliated and crushed.
It’s one thing for the opposition to use every trick to ensure Boris never returns to power.
It’s their job, the whole reason for their existence.
What is shameful and unforgivable is that Tory MPs are doing Labor’s job for them.
Anyone who doesn’t believe Boris was overthrown in a ruthless coup need only look at the Pincher case.
Mrs. May named him, forgave him, renamed him and promoted him.
Why then is the responsibility for the Pincher affair placed on the back of his successor?