Woman ‘violently assaulted’ at Conservative Party conference in Manchester

Activist expelled from event as Tory officials ‘working with police’

Andy Gregory
Monday 04 October 2021 18:48
<p>Officers stand outside the Manchester Central Convention Complex during the Conservative Party Conference. Police are reported to have been called to a hotel in the city following the alleged incident </p>

Officers stand outside the Manchester Central Convention Complex during the Conservative Party Conference. Police are reported to have been called to a hotel in the city following the alleged incident

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A woman has alleged that she was “violently assaulted” while attending the Conservative Party conference.

Tory officials are working with the police after Clementine Cowton, director of external affairs at Octopus Energy Group, told a fringe event in Manchester that she had been “violently assaulted in the conference zone by a man”.

“This behaviour is completely unacceptable and the party has revoked the pass of the individual concerned and is working with the police,” a Tory party spokesman said.

According to The Times, Ms Cowton said she was in the bar of the Midland Hotel – one of the main destinations at the autumn gathering – when an inebriated man, who she described as being in his thirties, sat in a seat vacated by her friend.

The male attendee reportedly made her so uncomfortable that she asked him “several times politely to leave”, before she eventually took his phone and dropped it on the floor in a bid to get him away from her.

“He went to retrieve it and then he came back and attacked me,” Ms Cowton said, describing the man as trying to punch her before being stopped by others in the bar. Her glass was smashed in the resulting scuffle, she said.

Greater Manchester Police said officers “responded to an incident at the Midland Hotel at around 12.30am this morning to reports of an assault on a 33-year-old woman”.

“Officers arrived quickly, there were no reports of any injures, and no arrests were made, however a man has been identified, [and] had his accreditation removed for the remainder of the Conservative Party Conference,” the force said.

“Our investigation into what happened is ongoing. GMP is here to protect. Women’s safety is a top priority, and something we continue to take incredibly seriously.”

The party said it had contacted Ms Cowton to offer support.

Speaking on a panel hosted by the Conservative Home website on Monday about how to affordably accelerate efforts to avert climate breakdown, Ms Cowton began by addressing the incident.

“Sorry to dump this on everybody,” she said. “It was a bit of a surprise but I do want to just take the opportunity to say, women are often unsafe in places where other people feel safe, and it’s really important that we start to take that much more seriously as a society, and starting with the police.”

It comes as the government and police face questions over women’s safety in society, following the rape and murder of Sarah Everard at the hands of a serving officer and the killing of Sabina Nessa as she walked to a bar in southeast London.

Additional reporting by PA

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