An MP who accused the prime minister’s father of inappropriately touching her has said journalists scoured through her past sex life to find “some sort of defence” for the alleged assault.
Caroline Nokes, the Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North and chair of the Commons women and equalities committee, said Stanley Johnson smacked her on the bottom at the Conservative party conference in 2003.
Since the allegation came to light last week, Nokes said some sections of the media had “warped logic” in labelling her “the sort of woman that it’s OK to sexually harass”.
She told Times Radio: “That’s just horrific because how does a perpetrator know what kind of life their victim has led? We are literally in a culture that is trying to turn it on the woman, make it her fault, blame her, accuse her of making it a political vendetta.”
Asked why she did not report the assault at the time, Nokes said: “If anyone said in 2003 that I should report it, my first question would be to who? How? What processes are there for me to make a complaint to the Conservative party about a fellow candidate? And I just didn’t know that there were any and I think I would struggle to identify who to complain to now, to be brutally honest.
“But I, like so many women, had that response of: how will this impact upon me? How will talking about this have a negative impact on me? And even 18 years later you can see people trying to turn it back on me, victim-blaming and shaming.”
Nokes said she does not regard herself as a victim and refused to be painted as one.
She added: “I really do think it’s incumbent upon all of us to work together to call it out and to make sure that men who are behaving in this way understand that it’s inappropriate.”
Johnson maintained he did not remember the incident and did not know who Nokes was. But the allegation prompted a second woman to come forward, Ailbhe Rea, a journalist for the New Statesman, who alleged he “groped” her at the Tory conference in 2019.
Stanley Johnson told the Sun: “I have no recollection of Caroline Nokes, and no idea what she was talking about. Had I been asked about the allegation made by the journalist of the New Statesman, I would have said the same thing.”
On Thursday, the prime minister refused to say whether the Conservatives would launch an investigation.
Boris Johnson told reporters: “First of all, it’s absolutely right that everybody, women in particular, should be able, should have the confidence, to come forward and make complaints.
“There are proper procedures available for people to make their complaints, to make known what has happened and for those to be properly investigated. But I’m obviously not going to comment on individual cases.”