Boris Johnson denies 'very sad' allegations he groped a journalist

'I don't minimise the importance of such allegations, and I don't minimise the importance of the issue'

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 01 October 2019 10:33
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Boris Johnson comments on groping allegations: 'I've said what I've said about that. They are not true'

Boris Johnson has categorically denied allegations he groped a female journalist and said it was "very sad" that someone should make such claims.

As allegations over his personal conduct threatened to overshadow the Conservative conference, the prime minister dismissed questions over whether he had a "women problem", arguing that he had presided over a "feminocracy" when he was at City Hall.

Charlotte Edwardes, a senior newspaper journalist, has accused Mr Johnson of squeezing her thigh under the table at a private lunch in 1999, when he was editor of the Spectator magazine.

Asked about the reports, Mr Johnson told BBC Breakfast: "This is a very difficult time and people are thinking for the country in the sense that Brexit is about to be done and a lot of people don't want Brexit to be done.

"And I think rightly or wrongly they conceive of me as the person who is helping to deliver Brexit and it is inevitable that I'm going to come under a certain amount of shot and shell."

He added: "It's obviously very sad that someone should make such allegations - they are not true."

In a separate interview with the Today programme, the prime minister: "I don't minimise the importance of such allegations, and I don't minimise the importance of the issue. Let's be clear about that. But it is not true.

"And there's nothing really more that I can say it."

Asked if he had a "women problem", the prime minister said: "I've always been a big champion of women at the top of every organisation that I run. If you look at the way I ran City Hall was virtually half and half, it was a complete feminocracy at City Hall.

"The same goes for what I did in the Foreign Office. And if you look at the the signature policy of the FCO under me, it was to champion, as the number one solution to the problems of the world, 12 years of quality education for every girl in the world."

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Downing Street was forced to deny Ms Edwardes' accusations on Sunday night, after an outcry from senior female MPs.

But Ms Edwardes hit back, tweeting: "If the prime minister doesn’t recollect the incident then clearly I have a better memory than he does."

Writing in the Sunday Times Style, she 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.

“My mother always said: ‘Wear a badge to the cinema with which to stab wandering hands’. But this is work, so I am silent.”

Mary Wakefield, the wife of Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings, denied she was the other woman allegedly groped at the lunch after speculation at the party's conference in Manchester.

In a statement, she said: “I am not the woman referred to in Charlotte Edwardes’ column.

“Boris was a good boss and nothing like this ever happened to me. Nor has Charlotte, who I like and admire, ever discussed the incident with me.”

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