The trade minister Conor Burns was sacked from the government and suspended as a Conservative MP after he was seen touching a young man’s thigh in a Tory conference hotel bar, it has been claimed.
According to the BBC on Saturday, an eyewitness said the former minister was seen with the man in the early hours of Tuesday in the Hyatt Regency hotel bar in Birmingham, which was a popular venue for conference attenders. Burns has denied any wrongdoing.
However, the individual concerned has not spoken about what happened and Downing Street has not commented on the exact circumstances of the sacking. The BBC said that an eyewitness claimed to have seen Burns with his hand on the young man’s thigh, adding that others had also seen it. The eyewitness said Burns was told to stop what he was doing – a claim disputed by friends of Burns.
It had been understood that Burns was in line for a knighthood as part of Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list, having been a close ally of the former prime minister for many years.
It is also understood the complaint was raised with Tory whips by a third party. It was this complaint that led to Burns being suspended.
Allies of the Bournemouth West MP have claimed Burns was on heavy medication to manage pain following a rib injury. They acknowledge he was drinking that evening and the medication could have accelerated the effects of alcohol.
Burns has vowed to “clear his name” following the allegation.
The reports emerged after Melanie Brown, the former Spice Girl Mel B, made an apparent criticism of Burns’s behaviour during a conversation with her at the conference. Brown wrote on Twitter: “Really?? Your shocked about this complaint??? Let me remind you what you said me in lift …”
She did not clarify any further. However, Burns has denied meeting the singer, telling the PA news agency: “I believe I have never met Mel.”The singer, whose real name is Melanie Brown, had attended the Tory conference to address an event organised by the Sun and Women’s Aid, a charity of which she is a patron. She warned that domestic abuse could slip down the agenda during “these times of absolute economic chaos”.
However, some Tory MPs believe the party has been too quick to suspend Burns. One senior party figure said that after a poor party conference, Truss had tried to act swiftly in contrast to the way in which Johnson had not acted when allegations emerged over Tory MP Chris Pincher.