The reaction to sexual assault allegations against Stanley and Boris Johnson show why it is so hard for women to come forward
Allegations of abuse by men in powerful positions still continue to be dismissed.
Conservative MP Caroline Nokes and the journalist Ailbhe Rea both alleged on Monday that the Prime Minister’s father, Stanley Johnson, had sexually assaulted them at Conservative Party conferences in 2003 and 2019.
“I can remember a really prominent man [Johnson] smacking me on the backside about as hard as he could and going, ‘Oh, Romsey, you’ve got a lovely seat’.” Nokes told Sky News.
She added that: “I didn’t do anything and I feel ashamed by that… now I probably would.”
Rea said Johnson had also assaulted her at Conservative party conference in 2019, adding that “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.”
Beth Rigby @BethRigbyStanley Johnson accused of inappropriately touching senior Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the Women & Equalities Select Committee, says the PM's father behaved inappropriately towards her at the Conservative Party Conference in 2003. https://t.co/tz4ElcpU7b
The allegations about Stanley Johnson are serious and really should lead to a proper investigation against him.
Asked about the allegations on Tuesday, the Home Office minister Damian Hinds said that there should be an investigation into the claims “if that’s the appropriate course of action”.
However, when asked by Folded on Tuesday whether the prime minister would support an investigation into Stanley Johnson, his spokesman would only say that “I wouldn’t get into specific allegations. It clearly wouldn’t be a matter for me.”
The reaction two years ago to very similar allegations against Boris Johnson himself does not inspire confidence that such action will be taken.
Back then Boris Johnson dismissed the allegation that he had assaulted the journalist Charlotte Edwardes, and another woman in 1999, saying that “I think what the public want to hear is about what we are doing to level up and unite the country.”
The allegations were also quickly dismissed by Johnson’s colleagues Nicky Morgan, Sajid Javid and James Cleverly, despite there being no obvious reason to doubt Edwardes, who is a highly respected journalist, and plenty of reason to doubt Johnson, who was famously sacked twice for lying.
“The prime minister has said that this is completely untrue and I have full faith in the prime minister,” said Javid, with Morgan stating categorically that there was “no truth in these allegations”
The story was also dismissed by Johnson’s friend Toby Young, who joked that when they were both at the Spectator “people complained if Boris didn’t put his hand on their knee during lunch.”
Following the denial the claims against Boris Johnson were quickly dropped by most news organisations and have rarely, if ever, been mentioned since.
In fact they didn’t even re-emerge when the prime minister personally intervened to block legislation that would have made it easier to prosecute sexual harassers.
Asked about the allegations again by Folded on Tuesday, Johnson’s spokesman would only say that “I haven’t spoken to him [the PM] about it.”
They added that any woman who "feels they have been a victim of of any kind of harassment should be free to come forward."
However, the way in which credible allegations made against Johnson and his father have been allowed to so quickly be dismissed and disappear from the public eye, shows why it is still so hard for women to do that.
And until that changes, men in powerful positions will remain under very little pressure to change their abusive behaviour either.