Boris Johnson denies groping journalist’s thigh
He is also accused of misconduct over affair with US businesswoman
MANCHESTER: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson denied yesterday he had inappropriately touched a female journalist 20 years ago, and said the public were more interested in hearing about his plans for public services.
As Mr Johnson prepares to lead Britain out of the European Union on Oct 31, his past relations with several women have come under scrutiny.
The allegations overshadowed the Conservative Party's annual conference which opened on Sunday.
Ms Charlotte Edwardes, a columnist, wrote in The Sunday Times that Mr Johnson had groped her at a lunch in 1999 when he was editor of The Spectator magazine, reported Reuters.
"Under the table, I feel Johnson's hand on my thigh. He gives it a squeeze," Ms Edwardes wrote.
"His hand is high up my leg and he has enough inner flesh beneath his fingers to make me sit suddenly upright."
Ms Edwardes said that after the meal, she confided in another woman who had sat on the other side of Mr Johnson, Reuters reported.
The woman said Mr Johnson had groped her too, Ms Edwardes said.
Asked in a TV interview if he had inappropriately touched her thigh as she reported, Mr Johnson said: "No".
When subsequently asked if she had made up the account, he replied: "I'm just saying what I said, and I think what the public want to hear is what we are doing for them and the country and for investment in ways of uniting the country."
Asked if the allegations were overshadowing the conference, he said: "Not at all. I think what the public want to hear is what we're doing to bring the country together and get on with improving their lives."
After a denial by a Downing Street spokesman, Ms Edwardes said on Twitter: "If the prime minister doesn't recollect the incident then clearly I have a better memory than he does."
London's Labour-run local government said last Friday it had referred Mr Johnson to Britain's police watchdog for potential investigation over allegations of misconduct involving a US businesswoman while he was mayor of London, Reuters reported.
The referral follows allegations, first reported by The Sunday Times, that when Mr Johnson was mayor, he failed to declare close personal links to tech entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri, who received thousands of pounds in public business funding and places on official trade trips.
Both Mr Johnson and Ms Arcuri have denied any wrongdoing.
British news reports this weekend said that Ms Arcuri, now 34, told four friends that she and Mr Johnson were having a sexual affair.
Their relationship was said to have begun soon after they met in 2012 when she was a graduate student and he was running for his second term as mayor, The Sunday Times reported.
Mr Johnson, then 47, was in his second marriage.
Asked about the referral to the police watchdog, Mr Johnson's spokesman said: "The prime minister as mayor of London did a huge amount of work when selling our capital city around the world, beating the drum for London and the UK."