Keir Starmer has called on the Tories or ‘criminal authorities’ to investigate claims after a senior Conservative MP and a journalist accused Stanley Johnson, the Prime Minister’s father, of inappropriately touching them at party conferences.
The Labour leader urged a police probe into allegations that the elder Johnson inappropriately touched former minister Caroline Nokes, 49, and told her she had a ‘lovely seat’ at the Tory Party conference in Blackpool in 2003. Political journalist Alibhe Rea added she was ‘groped’ by the former MEP at another Tory Party conference in 2019.
Mr Johnson, 81, has so far declined to comment other than to say he has ‘no recollection of Caroline Nokes at all’, while the Conservative Party is yet to say whether an investigation will be launched. Meanwhile, Downing Street and Boris Johnson’s official spokesman declined to comment on the allegations against the ‘private individual’.
He was heard saying ‘no, no, no, no’ and waving his hand when approached by a Sky News reporter outside his £2.5m home in London on Tuesday.
But Sir Keir, an ex-barrister, said the severity of the allegations against Mr Johnson were ‘serious’ and needed to ‘be fully investigated’.
He added: ‘I don’t think at this stage it’s for me to say what should happen as a result. But it takes guts and bravery to come forward to make allegations like this.
‘They now need to be fully investigated – either by the Conservative Party, or by the criminal authorities. Those allegations having been made, there now needs to be an investigation into them.’
Ms Nokes, chair of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, suggested the Prime Minister’s father inappropriately touched her during the 2003 conference in Blackpool.
At the time, she was preparing for the campaign to represent the Hampshire constituency of Romsey during the 2005 election, during which Mr Johnson stood in Teignbridge, in Devon.
‘I can remember a really prominent man smacking me on the backside about as hard as he could and going, ‘Oh, Romsey, you’ve got a lovely seat’,’ Ms Nokes told Sky News.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged a police probe into allegations that the elder Johnson inappropriately touched former minister Caroline Nokes, 49, and told her she had a ‘lovely seat’ at the Tory Party conference in Blackpool in 2003
A senior Tory MP accused Stanley Johnson, the Prime Minister’s father, of inappropriately touching her. Responding to the allegation, he said: ‘I have no recollection of Caroline Nokes at all – but there you go. And no reply… good luck and thanks’
Senior Conservative MP Caroline Nokes (left), 49, and New Statesman journalist Ailbhe Rea (right) have both accused Stanley Johnson of inappropriately touching them
‘Stanley Johnson did that to me ahead of the ’05 election, so it was Blackpool… 2003/4,’ she added.
‘I didn’t do anything and I feel ashamed by that … now I probably would.’
On Tuesday afternoon, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer praised Ms Nokes’ ‘bravery’ for speaking out, and called for an investigation.
His comments came after Downing Street insisted that the PM’s father is a ‘private’ individual and refused to comment on Ms Nokes’s allegations.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘I haven’t spoken to the PM about this. I think I can point you to what Damian Hinds said this morning about the importance of women and girls being free from harassment and the action the Government has taken on that.
‘This is effectively about a private individual. I am not going to be drawn, again, into specific allegations against a private individual. Of course, we would want anyone in any circumstance who feels they have been a victim of any kind of harassment to be free to come forward and report it to the appropriate authorities.’
Mrs Nokes, the chairman of the Women and Equalities committee, was at the time of the alleged incident a prospective parliamentary candidate for Romsey and Southampton North, and made the allegation during a panel discussion on Sky News.
She said: ‘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”.
Mrs Nokes then said the candidate was Mr Johnson Sr, 81, who later failed to get elected. She added: ‘I would have been in my early 30s, so old enough to call it out. I now regard it as a duty… to call out wherever you see it.’
Responding to the allegation, Mr Johnson Sr said: ‘I have no recollection of Caroline Nokes at all – but there you go. And no reply… good luck and thanks.’
Ms Rea then claimed in a tweet: ‘Stanley Johnson also groped me at a party at Conservative conference in 2019.
‘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.’
Ms Rea, who is aged in her mid-20s and grew up Belfast, graduated from Oxford University in 2017 and has worked for the New Statesman as a political correspondent since July 2019.
Today, Home Office minister Damian Hinds said an investigation will be carried out into the allegations ‘if that’s the appropriate course of action’. And shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds told Sky News: ‘Any victim who comes forward we have to treat what they say very sensitively, very carefully.’
Sir Keir said on Tuesday afternoon: ‘The allegations are serious and they need to be fully investigated, I don’t think at this stage it’s for me to say what should happen as a result.
‘But it takes guts and bravery to come forward to make allegations like this. They now need to be fully investigated either by the Conservative Party or by the criminal authorities.’
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds earlier said the allegation needs to be treated ‘extremely seriously and sensitively’.
Ms Nokes also told the BBC earlier today: ‘I have a really single message to men who might commit inappropriate acts towards women. Just don’t do it.
‘Learn from your mistakes and apologise if you have done something like that and most importantly don’t do it again.’
Ms Nokes, chair of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, suggested the Prime Minister’s father inappropriately touched her during the 2003 conference in Blackpool
Stanley Johnson, 81, was heard saying ‘no, no, no, no’ and waving his hand when approached by a Sky News reporter outside his £2.5m London townhouse on Tuesday. Pictured: Mr Johnson Sr in 2019
It comes as Mr Johnson Sr was photographed not wearing a mask while waiting to board a flight to London at Dubai Airport yesterday. He was pictured standing in line around other passengers who were all wearing masks.
Guardian football journalist Simon Burnton took the picture and tweeted: ‘Just back from Dubai, and there was one person on my flight who didn’t think masks were for them. It was… Boris Johnson’s dad #likefatherlikeson.’
Last year a biography of the Prime Minister claimed Mr Johnson Sr’s late wife Charlotte Johnson Wahl needed hospital treatment after being hit by him in the 1970s. He is said to have deeply regretted the ‘isolated’ incident.
Asked about the allegations, Mr Hinds told Times Radio: ‘I don’t know obviously about the … I’ve heard this morning, as you have, or overnight, about this, about these allegations.
‘I can say that, overall, in terms of the safety of women and girls, and being free from harassment wherever they are at home, at work, in the street, and online, this is an absolute top priority for the Government.
‘But I’m not joining a link between that and at this because we don’t know, but if there is an investigation to be had, then, of course, that will happen.’
He added: ‘If there is an investigation to be had, if that is the appropriate course of action, then of course that will happen.’
Ms Nokes made the allegation during a cross-party panel on how to confront violence against women in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder. She added: ‘I now regard it as a duty, an absolute duty, to call 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”.’
Stanley Johnson and Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester last month
New Statesman journalist Ailbhe Rea said: ‘Stanley Johnson also groped me at a party at Conservative conference in 2019’
Mr Johnson, pictured being confronted on Sky News, is accused of smacking a female Conservative on the bottom in 2003
Ms Nokes also said: ‘I’ve had male MPs stick their hands on my backside in Strangers’ Bar (in Parliament).’
The discussion also featured Labour MPs Jess Philips and Rosena Allin-Khan, and Conservative MP Fay Jones. During the conversation hosted by Sky News, each of the politicians also described their own experiences.
Ms Nokes also alleged she was groped as an 11-year-old by a group of men. And Ms Philips, the shadow minister for domestic violence, claimed she was assaulted by a former boss at a party.
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, shadow minister for mental health, claimed she was harassed by a senior medic when she was a junior doctor.
And Fay Jones, the Tory MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, described how she was flashed by a man when she was 17. All four women called for public sexual harassment to be made a specific crime in upcoming legislation.
A move to create the offence within the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill going through Parliament is supported by the Home Secretary but is yet to be approved by Downing Street, Sky News reported.
Last year a biography of the Prime Minister claimed Mr Johnson Sr hit the Prime Minister’s mother in a domestic violence incident that broke her nose and left her requiring hospital treatment.
Investigative author Tom Bower described Mr Johnson Sr’s first marriage, to Mr Johnson Jr’s mother Charlotte, as violent and unhappy, quoting her as saying: ‘He broke my nose. He made me feel like I deserved it.’
In the book called The Gambler, Charlotte told the author: ‘I want the truth to be told.’ Family friends confirmed the story to the Mail On Sunday, but insisted that the incident had been a one-off.
Mr Johnson told Sky: ‘I have no recollection of Caroline Nokes at all – but there you go. And no reply… good luck and thanks’
Former minister Caroline Nokes, 49, is seen during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in July 2021
The friends said it happened in the 1970s when Charlotte was suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and had ‘flailed’ at Stanley, who broke her nose when ‘flailing back’.
They added that Stanley deeply regretted the incident, which led to Charlotte being taken to hospital, and denied that he had been violent on any other occasion.
She and Mr Johnson Sr had four children together including the future Prime Minister but divorced in 1979. Soon after he remarried to Jennifer Kidd in 1981 and they had two children.
Mr Johnson lost the campaign to become an MP in 2005 but had served as a Conservative member of the European Parliament between 1979 and 1984.
He did not immediately respond when contacted by the PA news agency about both of the allegations.