Damian Green is facing calls to step aside from his job as Theresa May’s deputy until an investigation into whether he made inappropriate advances to a female Tory activist has been completed.
Conservative MP Anna Soubry said the allegations against the first secretary of state were “very serious”.
“I would say there is an investigation, by some mechanism you stand out, you remove yourself from this position, until the conclusion of that investigation,” Soubry told Sky News on Wednesday morning. “There will be reason why he is still there, it might be his own conscience.”
She added that “in normal circumstances” someone facing allegations such as those made about Green would have been suspended from their job.
Kate Maltby, who now works as a columnist, told The Times that Green had “fleetingly” touched her knee during a meeting in a Waterloo pub in 2015 and a year later sent her a “suggestive” text message after she was pictured wearing a corset in the newspaper.
Green, who is de facto deputy prime minister, said it was “absolutely and completely untrue that I’ve ever made any sexual advances on Ms Maltby”.
He said the text message was sent in the spirit of “two friends agreeing to meet up for a regular catch-up”.
“This untrue allegation has come as a complete shock and is deeply hurtful, especially from someone I considered a personal friend,” he added.
The prime minister has asked Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to investigate the allegations against Green.
Labour has launched an independent inquiry into claims that prominent activist Bex Bailey was discouraged by a party official from reporting an alleged rape at a Labour event in 2011 on the grounds it might damage her political career.
Jeremy Corbyn vowed he would allow “no tolerance” of sexism, harassment or abuse after Ms Bailey spoke out about the party’s failure to support her following her alleged rape.
Bailey, a former member of the party’s National Executive Committee, said her attacker was not an MP, but someone more senior than her in the party.
Aged 19 at the time of the attack, she said she felt too scared and ashamed to report it to the police, but eventually summoned up the courage to tell a senior party official.
Labour said it takes the allegations “extremely seriously” and has launched an independent inquiry by general secretary Iain McNicol into the claims that she was not given adequate support by the party.
Labour MP Stella Creasy told HuffPost UK political staff should be given proper training to deal with reports of sexual assaults.