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Trade Secretary Said She Would Have "Slapped" Stanley Johnson Following Allegations Of Inappropriate Touching

The International Trade Secretary said casual sexism was "unacceptable"

4 min read

Anne-Marie Trevelyan has condemned "casual sexism" against women in response to allegations made against Stanley Johnson.

Stanley Johnson, the father of the Prime Minister, has been accused of inappropriately touching Conservative MP Caroline Nokes in 2003.

Earlier this week Nokes told Sky News the incident took place at the Conservative Party Conference in 2003 when she was the prospective candidate for Romsey and Southampton North.

She said: "I can remember a really prominent man – at the time the Conservative candidate for Teignbridge in Devon – smacking me on the backside about as hard as he could and going, 'oh, Romsey, you've got a lovely seat'."

On Wednesday, cabinet minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan showed her support for Nokes, and said women had for "far too long" had to tolerate casual sexism."This is something that all of us women, not only in political life, in all sorts of life have had to far too long tolerate," Trevelyn told Sky News. 

"This sort of casual sexism, the wandering hand that is completely unacceptable. And most men are as horrified as you or I are."

Asked what her reaction would have been to a similar sitation, Trevelyan said she would have "slapped him".

"At the time I would have probably slapped him, which arguably isn't a better response either but it would have been an instinctive response from me," she said.

"I think Caroline would have shown great personal restraint if she quietly moved away."

The Trade Secretary said that she had been at dinners previously "where a hand would appear on her knee".

"That sort of casual sexism was not uncommon," she continued. 

"It is much less common, thank goodness, now, but we do have much better and robust systems.

"Any woman that receives that sort of abusive behaviour from someone absolutely should feel confident that she can stand up and both face them down but also have the support of those around her to make sure that the abuser does not do that. This is not acceptable."Johnson has said he has "no recollection" of Nokes after being asked about the claims.

He told Sky News: "I have no recollection of Caroline Nokes at all – but there you go. And no reply... Hey ho, good luck and thanks."

Nokes said she had made the claims public because she regarded it as a "duty, an absolute duty, to call out wherever you see it".

She added: "Be the noisy, aggravating, aggressive woman in the room because if I'm not prepared to do that, then my daughter won't be prepared to do that... you do get to a point where you go 'up with this, I will not put'."

Following Nokes' allegation, New Statesman journalist Ailbhe Rea claimed she was "groped" by Stanley Johnson at the Conservative Party Conference in 2019.

Boris Johnson's spokesperson said they would not comment on an individual case, but said they wanted anyone who felt they were a victim of harassment to "be free to come forward and report it to the appropriate authorities".

Speaking on Tuesday, Labour leader Keir Starmer said the "serious" allegations should be "fully investigated".

"I don't think at this stage it's for me to say what should happen as a result," he said.

"But it takes guts and bravery to come forward to make allegations like this.

"They now need to be fully investigated – either by the Conservative Party, or by the criminal authorities.

"Those allegations having been been made, there now needs to be an investigation into them."

Trevelyan also spoke this morning to defend Home Secretary Priti Patel's comments claiming the alleged terror attack in Liverpool was a "complete reflection" of the UK's "dysfunctional" asylum system.

"It’s a complete merry-go-round and it has been exploited," Patel said. "A whole sort of professional legal services industry has based itself on rights of appeal, going to the courts day-in day-out at the expense of the taxpayers through legal aid."

Responding to the comments, Trevelyan said the government wanted to create a "system that works" and did not along gangs to "take advantage" of vulnerable migrants.

She added: "I trust that her judgement of that situation and the time frame on which the bomber in question came to the UK was at a time where the system did not work as effectively as it is now under her leadership."

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