NEWS
30/09/2019 7:56 AM AEST

Boris Johnson Denies Squeezing Female Journalist's Thigh

Charlotte Edwardes says she has "a better memory than he does" after Number 10 spokesman insists allegation is "untrue".

Downing Street has denied a harassment accusation made against Boris Johnson after a female journalist claimed he squeezed her thigh under the table during a private lunch.

Charlotte Edwardes said the incident took place at the offices of The Spectator magazine in London shortly after Johnson became editor in 1999.

After the lunch, she said she had confided in the young woman who was sitting on the other side of Johnson, who told her: “Oh God, he did exactly the same to me.”

But a Number 10 spokesman said: “This allegation is untrue.”

Following the denial, Edwardes tweeted on Sunday: “If the prime minister doesn’t recollect the incident then clearly I have a better memory than he does.”

It’s understood that if asked personally about the allegation, the prime minister will deny the claim.

Writing her first column for The Sunday Times, Edwardes said: “I’m seated on Johnson’s right; on his left is a young woman I know.

“More wine is poured; more wine is drunk. Under the table I feel Johnson’s hand on my thigh. He gives it a squeeze.

“His hand is high up my leg and he has enough inner flesh beneath his fingers to make me sit suddenly upright.”

Despite the Downing Street protestations, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who said he knows Edwardes well, said he believed her to be trustworthy, adding: “I entirely trust what she has to say.”

Former work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has since said in a tweet “I agree with @MattHancock”.

Earlier, Hancock played down the report saying there were “always lots of other stories in papers”.

Speaking at a Tory party fringe event in Manchester hosted by HuffPost UK, he said: “Boris has never lectured other people about their private lives.

“I think that we should concentrate on delivering on what we are in politics for, which in my view is to serve the citizens of this country.”

But speaking to Channel 4 News, Hancock said he did not “dismiss it at all”.

Hancock said he did not know the details, adding it was incumbent not to “react without the full details”.

He added: “I know Charlotte well, and I entirely trust what she has to say.”

Hancock said: “What I would say is that these are important issues and getting the response right is incredibly important.

“But there’s also something here about making sure that the way I try to carry on my life – both in public and in private frankly – is with a high degree of integrity.”

He added: “Nobody’s perfect but I think that is how we should try to go about things.”

Labour’s shadow secretary for women and equalities Dawn Butler said it was a “shocking but sadly all too familiar story”.

“What is it about powerful men feeling entitled to harass women? Boris Johnson has serious questions to answer,” she tweeted.

The allegations – and Labour’s efforts to capitalise on the row – have caused fury in Number 10 at the start of the Conservative Party conference.