Tory environment group investigates groping allegations against ambassador Stanley Johnson

‘Alleged behaviour is not acceptable’ says green network, as journalist claims PM’s father ‘handsy’

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 17 November 2021 11:06
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Minister says she would have ‘slapped’ Stanley Johnson if he had inappropriately touched her

A Tory environmental group is making internal inquiries about the allegations made against ambassador Stanley Johnson after a senior MP and a journalist both accused him of inappropriately touching them.

Tory MP Caroline Nokes has claimed the prime minister’s father forcefully smacked her on the backside at in 2003, and political journalist Ailbhe Rea claimed she was “groped” by him in 2019.

The Conservative Environment Network (CEN) – an independent forum of campaigners linked to the party, which boasts Mr Johnson as its international ambassador – has condemned the alleged conduct.

The group said in a statement: “We take all allegations of inappropriate behaviour very seriously. We have clear internal processes for managing allegations of this nature, and these are currently being followed. The alleged behaviour is not acceptable to CEN.”

The network is a forum independent of the Conservative Party, but is also made up of a parliamentary caucus, claiming to have 120 Tory MPs and peers “driving the green conservative agenda in Westminster”.

The group did not say whether Mr Johnson had been suspended from his role on the steering committee while its internal inquiries into the allegations are made, or whether he could be asked to resign if the claims are substantiated.

The right-wing commentator Isabel Oakeshott appeared to back up the claims made Ms Nokes and Ms Rea on Wednesday – describing the PM’s father as “handsy”, while advising the police stay out of the matter.

Sharing a picture of herself with Mr Johnson, Ms Oakeshott tweeted: “The charming Stanley Johnson can be a little over-friendly – indeed handsy – but I don’t believe this is one for the police. Officers should focus their limited resources on investigating real crimes.”

Mr Johnson, 81, has said he has “no recollection of Caroline Nokes at all”. The Conservative Party is yet to say whether a probe will be launched and No 10 declined to comment on the allegations against the “private individual”.

Earlier on Wednesday, cabinet minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan has said she probably would have “slapped” Mr Johnson if he inappropriately touched her in the way alleged by her Tory colleague Ms Nokes.

Asked if Mr Johnson will be investigated, the international trade secretary told Sky News: “I will leave Caroline to work with the party on that. But we have a robust system in place and I hope very much she’ll be able to work that through with the party machine.”

And asked what she would have done in response to the alleged touching, Ms Trevelyan said: “At the time, I would have probably slapped him.

“Which arguably isn’t a better response either but it would’ve been an instinctive response from me and I think Caroline would’ve shown great personal restraint if she quietly moved away.”

Ms Nokes, chair of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, suggested the prime minister’s father inappropriately touched her during the 2003 conference in Blackpool.

At the time, she was preparing for the campaign to represent the Hampshire constituency of Romsey during the 2005 election. “I can remember a really prominent man smacking me on the backside about as hard as he could and going, ‘Oh, Romsey, you’ve got a lovely seat’,” she told Sky News.

On Tuesday, following widespread support for speaking out, Ms Nokes tweeted: “Just wanted to thank the sisterhood for the solidarity and support today. You know who you are and you’re amazing.”

Labour has urged the Tory Party to launch an investigation. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer praised Ms Nokes’ “bravery” for speaking out, adding: “The allegations are serious and they need to be fully investigated.”

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