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In an article published Sunday in the Sunday Times, journalist Charlotte Edwardes accused Boris Johnson of having caressed her thigh insistingly against her will in 1999.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, champion of Brexit, is also known for his tumultuous loves, but the denunciation of a journalist, who accuses him of having insisted on stroking his thigh, this time splashes the congress of the Conservative Party of which he is the star with a scent of scandal.

A well-established journalist in London’s square, Charlotte Edwardes recounted how the incident took place during a lunch at the offices of the conservative magazine “The Spectator” in London, shortly after Boris Johnson became its editor in 1999.

“Under the table, I feel Johnson’s hand on my thigh. He’s holding it tight. His hand is at the top of my leg and he has enough flesh under his fingers to make me suddenly stand up,” she described in an article published in the Sunday Times on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of the #Metoo movement, which had released the voices of women victims of harassment or sexual assault. Another young woman sitting next to Boris Johnson at that drunken lunch suffered the same thing, she said.

 

Denial by the Prime Minister

As a sign of the seriousness of the accusations, a Downing Street spokesman fiercely denied, in a reaction that departed from the line of never commenting on the leader’s private life. The Prime Minister himself denied it in a television interview, refusing to comment further.

But Health Minister Matt Hancock, who was unsuccessful in his bid to take over the Conservative Party in July against Boris Johnson, said on Channel 4 that the journalist was “trustworthy”. And former Conservative Justine Greening, now independent, described the accusations as “deeply worrying”.

In 2017, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon had to resign after being accused of laying a hand on a journalist’s knee at a dinner in 2002, as part of revelations about a sexual harassment “culture” in British politics.

This is the second case that shakes Boris Johnson in a few days, after the revelation that he risks a criminal investigation because of his links with an American businesswoman with whom he allegedly had an affair, Jennifer Arcuri, and who had received public funds when he was mayor of London. “Everything was done as it should be,” he replied on Sunday.

 

“A feminist”?

However, if he bends, the 55-year-old manager does not break up. In Manchester, where the Conservatives are meeting until Wednesday, several women have defended her, such as former Defence Minister Penny Mordaunt, for whom she is “a good person”. He is even a “feminist” for MP Rachel Maclean, given her commitment against female genital mutilation.

“The world was different” twenty years ago, defended Fleur Butler, president of the Conservative Women’s Association at AFP.

“It is very important, however, that the party say that we no longer accept this type of behaviour. ยป

According to a recent YouGov survey, far fewer women (34%) than men (44%) find Boris Johnson sympathetic. But Brexit is above all what matters to voters, namely whether it is the right man for the job, Chris Curtis, director of political research at YouGov, told AFP.

Boris Johnson has been married twice and separated in 2018 from Marina Wheeler, with whom he had four children and shared 26 years of life together, due to her unfaithfulness according to media reports. In 2009, he reportedly had a fifth child from an extramarital affair. He is now in a relationship with Carrie Symonds, a communication specialist 24 years younger than him.

“I don’t approve, but it’s none of our business, it’s her private life,” says Margaret Dane, a retired woman walking the lobby of the conference centre, to AFP. “I’m just going to have to ignore the fact that this may be true,” she continues about the sexual harassment charges, because “we need someone like Boris” to carry out Brexit.