Sir Keir Starmer: claim that Stanley Johnson inappropriately touched women must be investigated

 Sir Keir Starmer: claim that Stanley Johnson inappropriately touched women must be investigated

Allegations that Stanley Johnson inappropriately touched two women should be investigated by police if the Conservative Party will not examine them, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The Labour leader called for an urgent investigation after MP Caroline Nokes accused the Prime Minister’s father of having “smacked” her “on the backside” in 2003, and journalist Ailbhe Rea claimed he had “groped” her in 2019.

Despite the first alleged incident taking place while Mr Johnson was a party parliamentary candidate, and both alleged incidents occurring at party conferences, the Conservative party refused to confirm whether it was investigating his conduct.

Damian Hinds, the security minister who fielded questions during Tuesday’s morning broadcast round, told Times Radio: “If there is an investigation to be had, if that is the appropriate course of action, then of course that will happen.”

The Conservative party maintained its silence despite Lord Hague of Richmond, a former leader, insisting the allegations against Mr Johnson should be treated in the same way and be “open to the same scrutiny” as other harassment claims.

Sir Keir said it took “guts and bravery” for people to come forward with allegations of such a nature, adding: “They now need to be fully investigated, either by the Conservative Party or by the criminal authorities.”

Downing Street declined to comment on whether a criminal investigation into Mr Johnson would be launched, saying the police had “operational independence to decide how to investigate allegations”.

It came as the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), an independent Tory forum and parliamentary caucus of green campaigners for which Mr Johnson acts as international ambassador, hit out at his 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 group did not clarify whether it had suspended Mr Johnson from his role while its internal processes were under way, or whether it could ultimately dismiss him depending on their outcome.

Ms Nokes, the Tory MP for Romsey and Southampton North since 2005, said Mr Johnson made an inappropriate move against her at the annual party conference in Blackpool in 2003. She was a candidate in her early 30s at the time.

“I can remember a really prominent man – at the time the Conservative candidate for Teignbridge in Devon – 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.

The male parliamentary candidate, who failed to get elected, was Mr Johnson, who had previously served as a Tory MEP.

Asked about the allegation by Sky News, he said: “I have no recollection of Caroline Nokes at all – but there you go. And no reply… Hey ho, good luck and thanks.”

Ms Nokes, a former minister who chairs the Commons women and equalities committee, said she was “saddened” by his response, adding that the “brave thing” would be to “own up to it and apologise for it”.

After she had come forward with her allegation, Ms Rea, a political correspondent at the New Statesman, wrote on Twitter: “Stanley Johnson also groped me at a party at the Conservative conference in 2019.”

Ms Rea added: “I am grateful to Caroline Nokes for calling out something that none of us should have to put up with, not least from the Prime Minister’s father.”

Approached by The Telegraph, Mr Johnson, 81, said: “I can only repeat what I said to Sky News, namely that I had no recollection of Caroline Nokes and no idea of what she was talking about.”

He added that if he had been asked “about the allegation made by the journalist from the New Statesman, I would have said exactly the same”.

Ms Nokes made her claim while appearing on a panel of four MPs on Sky News, discussing how to combat violence against women in the aftermath of the murder of Sarah Everard.

She said: “I now regard it as a duty, an absolute duty, to call it out wherever you see it. Be the noisy, aggravating, aggressive woman in the room because if I’m not prepared to do that, then my daughter won’t be prepared to do that… you do get to a point where you go ‘up with this I will not put’.”

On social media, Ms Nokes thanked “the sisterhood” for the “solidarity and support” she had received since making the public allegation.

Number 10 said the Government “wants anyone who feels they’ve been a victim of harassment to be free to come forward”, adding that it was a “priority” to strengthen the rules against harassment.

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