A government minister has defended Stanley Johnson, calling him “a gentleman” after a fellow Conservative Party MP accused the prime minister’s father of inappropriately touching her.
Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, said she “didn’t believe” what Caroline Nokes had accused the former MEP of.
In response to the remarks, Ms Nokes said she was “sorry” the member of the government had “denounced” her – and hoped the remarks would not deter other women from coming forward with “experiences of public sexual harassment”.
Ms Nokes had previously told Sky News that Stanley Johnson had smacked her “about as hard as he could” on her backside at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool in 2003.
She told Sky News: “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’.”
Sky News approached Stanley Johnson – now 81 – for comment in relation to the allegation. He said: “I have no recollection of Caroline Nokes at all – but there you go. And no reply… Hey ho, good luck and thanks.”
Speaking to the Daily Mail today, Ms Dorries said: “I don’t believe it happened.”
She added: “I have known Stanley for 15 years. He is a gentleman. It never happened to me. Maybe there is something wrong with me.”
But Ms Nokes, 49, said: “I am very sorry the secretary of state at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has used her considerable influence and power in the media to denounce me in this way, and I very much hope her attitude does not deter other women from being brave enough to report their experiences of public sexual harassment.”
Following Ms Nokes initial remarks, the New Statesman journalist Ailbhe Rea alleged that Mr Johnson groped her at the Conservative Party Conference in 2019.
Jess Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said it is a common misconception for people to think others cannot carry out sexual harassment or violence.
“It’s the thing that silences victims. It reminds them to shut up about their experiences,” the Labour MP said.
“I’ve got to say I expected better from Nadine. I’m not surprised though, it’s the most common response to disbelieve.
“I’m not entirely sure why she thinks Caroline would lie. Where’s the benefit?”