U.K. Tory Sleaze Saga Has Enveloped Boris Johnson’s Father
A prominent politician in the U.K.’s ruling Conservative Party accused Boris Johnson’s father of inappropriately touching her, the latest damaging allegation against a senior figure in British public life as the prime minister struggles to contain a wider sleaze scandal.
Caroline Nokes, a Tory member of Parliament since 2010 who also chairs the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, told Sky News that Stanley Johnson had smacked her “on the backside about as hard as he could” at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool in 2003.
Johnson did not immediately respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment by phone and text message on Tuesday. He told Sky News he had no recollection of Nokes and said “no reply” to her allegation.
It comes at a sensitive time for Boris Johnson and his government, which can’t seem to draw a line under a scandal over paid lobbying and parliamentary rule-breaking. The premier’s botched attempt to overturn the suspension of a Tory MP found guilty of paid advocacy triggered intense scrutiny of politicians in his party, their second jobs and broader allegations of sleaze -- British media shorthand for questionable behavior ranging from corruption or secretive financial arrangements to sex scandals.
The involvement of the prime minister’s father will likely prolong the crisis, which has already seen days of negative front pages even in Tory-leaning newspapers. It will also foster the sense that the premier’s actions and inability to get a grip of the sleaze row has undermined his leadership.
Nokes made the allegation against Stanley Johnson during a discussion with three other female MPs about violence against women that was broadcast on Monday. Following her comments, New Statesman journalist Ailbhe Rea said she was groped by him at the Conservative Party conference in 2019.
The prime minister’s spokesman declined to comment on the specific allegations, citing Stanley Johnson’s status as a “private individual.”
“Anyone that commits something that is a criminal act we would not condone,” spokesman Max Blain told reporters on Tuesday.
Stanley Johnson lost when he stood for election for the Tories in 2005, but was a member of the European Parliament for the Conservatives between 1979 and 1984. He’s remained a prominent figure in Conservative circles, including appearing at an event at the Tory conference in Manchester in October.
Meanwhile divisions in the Conservative Party over sleaze and the government’s intervention in the Owen Paterson case -- which started the row about two weeks ago -- are not going away.
During a Parliament debate on standards on Tuesday, several Tories criticized each other over their positions, and former Prime Minister Theresa May called the government’s attempt to save Paterson “ill-judged and just plain wrong.”
“It would be a mistake to think that because someone broke the rules, the rules were wrong,” she said.
Following the debate, MPs approved the standards committee’s original guilty verdict on Paterson without a vote.
The opposition Labour Party will seek to drag out the issue with a vote Wednesday on whether MPs should be barred from holding paid consultancies on top of their parliamentary work.
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