Embattled Boris Johnson’s interactions with females are in the spotlight with a claim he squeezed the thighs of two young women.
Downing Street has denied a journalist’s revelation that Mr Johnson squeezed her thigh under the table during a private lunch 20 years ago.
It comes as the British prime minister was already under scrutiny for allegedly giving public money and favourable treatment to a lover while he was mayor of London.
In the latest airing, journalist Charlotte Edwardes has recalled an incident she said occurred at the offices of The Spectator magazine in London shortly after Mr Johnson became editor in 1999.
The details of the under-the-table affair are outlined in Ms Edwardes’ first column for The Sunday Times.
Ms Edwardes said as a young newspaper reporter she was seated to Mr Johnson’s right and another woman sat to his left.
“More wine is poured; more wine is drunk. Under the table I feel Johnson’s hand on my thigh. He gives it a squeeze,” she wrote.
“His hand is high up my leg and he has enough inner flesh beneath his fingers to make me sit suddenly upright.”
After the lunch, Ms Edwardes said she confided in the young woman sitting on the other side of Mr Johnson.
“Oh God, he did exactly the same to me,” the woman replied, according to Ms Edwardes.
A spokesman for Downing St has denied Ms Edwardes’ claims, saying: “This allegation is untrue”.
Ms Edwardes responded on Twitter: “If the prime minister doesn’t recollect the incident then clearly I have a better memory than he does.”
If the prime minister doesn’t recollect the incident then clearly I have a better memory than he does https://t.co/pbcLJThkqP
— Charlotte Edwardes (@chedwardes) September 29, 2019
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.
However Health Secretary Matt Hancock played down the report, saying there were “always lots of other stories in papers”.
“Boris has never lectured other people about their private lives,” he said at a Tory party fringe event in Manchester.
“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.”
On Friday, Mr Johnson was referred to the police complaints body over an escalating scandal involving former model Jennifer Arcuri, a US businesswoman.
Mr Johnson has denied allegations exposed in a Sunday Times report that Ms Arcuri was given $229,000 in public money and privileged access to trade missions to the US, Israel and Asia that Mr Johnson led as mayor.
This was despite her fledgling business not yet having met eligibility requirements for such trips.
Asked during a BBC interview about his ties to Ms Arcuri, Mr Johnson suggested that the Greater London Authority’s decision to refer a conduct matter to a police watchdog agency was politically motivated.
“Everything was done in accordance with the code … and everything was done with full propriety,” Mr Johnson said on Sunday.
When pressed again by BBC journalist Andrew Marr, Mr Johnson said, “there was no interest to declare”.