Boris Johnson Publicly Denies Allegation He Groped Journalist

The Conservative party conference has been overshadowed by claims made by Sunday Times columnist Charlotte Edwardes.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has for the first time publicly denied that he groped a journalist’s thigh.

The Conservative party conference in Manchester has been overshadowed by claims made by Charlotte Edwardes in the Sunday Times that Johnson squeezed her thigh at a private lunch in 1999.

Downing Street issued a statement denying the allegations on Sunday night.

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

On Monday, asked directly whether the allegation was true, Johnson tried to shift attention to the government’s new spending commitments, telling reporters: “No, and I think what the public want to hear is about what we are doing to level up and unite the country.”

Mary Wakefield, the wife of Johnson’s de facto chief of staff Dominic Cummings, has also denied she was the second woman referred to in Edwardes’ column, who was also allegedly groped.

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

Wakefield, who was employed at The Spectator at the time, 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.”

Journalist Toby Young, who also worked at The Spectator, also alluded to Johnson’s past behaviour, joking that women “complained if Boris didn’t put his hand on their knee”.

He told a fringe event at the Conservative party conference that The Spectator was nicknamed “the sextator”.

“Back then at The Spectator, in those raucous days, people complained if Boris didn’t put his hand on their knee. Times really have changed.”

Cabinet ministers have also insisted they back the PM amid a tide of criticism from opponents and women’s campaigners.

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said she believed the prime minister’s denial of Edwardes’ allegation.

The former women and equalities minister told HuffPost UK at a party conference fringe event in Manchester: “The prime minister and Downing Street have made it very clear that there isn’t any truth in those allegations, and I support the prime minister and believe him in that.”

Chancellor Sajid Javid tried to evade questions about the row in a series of broadcast interviews, telling reporters he had “full faith” in the prime minister.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to get drawn into personal allegations,” he told the BBC.

“For my part, I’m not going to get into that.

“The prime minister has said that this is completely untrue. I have full faith in the prime minister, I don’t doubt what he has said for a second, but I’m not going to get drawn into these allegations.”