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Boris Johnson denies squeezing thigh of woman journalist

Labour’s shadow secretary for women and equalities Dawn Butler said it was a ‘shocking but sadly all too familiar story’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

By David Hughes, Political Editor, Gavin Cordon, Whitehall Editor and George Ryan, Political Reporter, PA

Downing Street has been forced to deny claims that Boris Johnson squeezed the thigh of a woman journalist under the table during a private lunch.

Charlotte Edwardes said the incident took place at the offices of The Spectator magazine in London shortly after Mr Johnson became editor in 1999.

After the lunch, she said she had confided in the young woman who was sitting on the other side of Mr Johnson, who told her: “Oh God, he did exactly the same to me.”

What is it about powerful men feeling entitled to harass women? Boris Johnson has serious questions to answer Dawn Butler

But a Number 10 spokesman said: “This allegation is untrue.”

However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who said he knows Ms Edwardes well, said he believed her to be trustworthy, adding: “I entirely trust what she has to say.”

Former work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has since said in a tweet “I agree with @MattHancock”.

Writing her first column for The Sunday Times, Ms Edwardes said: “I’m seated on Johnson’s right; on his left is a young woman I know.

“More wine is poured; more wine is drunk. Under the table I feel Johnson’s hand on my thigh. He gives it a squeeze.

“His hand is high up my leg and he has enough inner flesh beneath his fingers to make me sit suddenly upright.”

Labour’s shadow secretary for women and equalities Dawn Butler said it was a “shocking but sadly all too familiar story”.

“What is it about powerful men feeling entitled to harass women? Boris Johnson has serious questions to answer,” she tweeted.

The allegations – and Labour’s efforts to capitalise on the row – have caused fury in Number 10 at the start of the Conservative Party conference.

Earlier Hancock played down the report saying there were “always lots of other stories in papers”.

Speaking at a Tory party fringe event in Manchester hosted by HuffPostUK, he said: “Boris has never lectured other people about their private lives.

“I think that we should concentrate on delivering on what we are in politics for, which in my view is to serve the citizens of this country.”

But speaking to Channel 4 News, Mr Hancock said he did not “dismiss it at all”.

Mr Hancock said he did not know the details, adding it was incumbent not to “react without the full details”.

He added: “I know Charlotte well, and I entirely trust what she has to say.”

Asked if he believed her claims, Mr Hancock said: “I know her and I know her to be trustworthy.

“What I would say is that these are important issues and getting the response right is incredibly important.

“But there’s also something here about making sure that the way I try to carry on my life – both in public and in private frankly – is with a high degree of integrity.”

He added: “Nobody’s perfect but I think that is how we should try to go about things.”

PA

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