Tory group distances itself from Stanley Johnson after groping claims

An influential Conservative environmental group has distanced itself from Stanley Johnson after allegations made against the prime minister’s father by a senior MP and a political journalists.

It came as another political journalist, Isabel Oakeshott, described Johnson as “handsy” but said she did not deem it worthy of a criminal investigation.

The Conservative Environment Network (CEN), for which Stanley Johnson acts as international ambassador, said it was concerned about the the allegations, made by the former cabinet minister Caroline Nokes and the New Statesman journalist Alibhe Rea.

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 is chaired by Ben Goldsmith, a close friend of the prime minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, who also acts as a non-executive board member of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Stanley Johnson remains listed on the group’s website as part of its steering group.

The group acts as a parliamentary caucus for more than 100 MPs and peers, with influential members of its board including Rachel Wolf, the former No 10 adviser who authored the 2019 manifesto.

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, called for the Conservative party to investigate Johnson. Nokes said Johnson had smacked her on the bottom in 2003, while he was in the race for a parliamentary seat, and Rea said he had groped her during the 2019 Tory conference.

“They now need to be fully investigated, either by the Conservative party or by the criminal authorities,” Starmer said.

Oakeshott, the former Mail on Sunday journalist who now presents on GB News, tweeted a picture of herself with Johnson, saying: “The charming Stanley Johnson can be a little over-friendly – indeed handsy – but I don’t believe this is one for the police. Officers should focus their limited resources on investigating real crimes.”

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.”

Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said he could not comment on individual cases, but that Downing Street would encourage anyone who had experienced harassment to report it.

“I’m not going to be drawn into specific allegations against a private individual,” he said. “Of course, we would want anyone in any circumstances 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.”

After Nokes talked about her experience on Sky News, she later shared on Twitter an offensive email from a member of the public which referred to her as a “filthy Tory whore” because she had spoken out. Nokes said: “That is the level of discourse women MPs have to deal with, every single day.”

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