A senior Tory MP has revealed that journalists have scoured through her past sex life to “find some sort of defence” after she accused the Prime Minister’s father of inappropriately touching her.
Caroline Nokes, the Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North and chairwoman of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, accused Stanley Johnson of forcefully smacking her on the backside while they were both candidates for the party.
And speaking to Times Radio on Sunday, she said that the culture of “victim blaming and shaming” when people come forward with accusations must end.
Johnson has said he had no recollection of Caroline Nokes or the allegations, which the MP said happened at the Conservative Party conference in 2003.
Her allegation prompted Ailbhe Rea, a journalist for the New Statesman, to allege that Stanley Johnson “groped” her at the Tory conference in 2019.
But she said since her revelations, as part of a panel on Sky News, some had come to the “warped” view that she was “the sort of woman it’s okay to sexually harass”.
She told Times Radio that after the incident she “like so many women had that response of well, how will this impact upon me? How will talking about this have a negative impact on me? And even 18 years later, you can see people trying to turn it back on me, victim-blaming and shaming”.
Nokes said: “Now, look, I don’t regard myself as a victim. I won’t be a victim.
“But to read some of the things that have been said about me and you think well, OK, so clearly some people, some sections of the media, have decided that I’m the sort of woman it’s OK to sexually harass.”
She said: “I’ve seen a number of journalists try to trawl my past sex life as some sort of defence for someone doing that.”
She added: “We are literally in a culture that is trying to turn it on the woman, make it her fault, blame her, accusing her of making it a political vendetta”.
Nokes said she had heard from women in all walks of life about the harassment they were subject to. She said there was “a particular problem in politics where in too many cases you have older men in positions of power and influence over younger women”.
She said the Conservative chief whip had been “very supportive and very helpful” over the allegations, but that Stanley Johnson had not apologised. She said: “I think we all know he doesn’t know who I am.”
She said it was for the party to decide whether to launch a formal investigation into Stanley Johnson, but that she still would not know where to report the allegations if they happened today.
She said: “Well, look, if anyone had said to me in 2003 that I should report it I think my first question would have been to whom? How? What processes are there for me to make a complaint to the Conservative Party about a fellow candidate?
“And I just didn’t know that there were any and I think I would probably struggle to identify who to complain to now to be brutally honest.”
But she urged other women to come forward with their experiences.
She said: “I know how hard it is when you’re at the start of your career to speak out publicly against somebody who can perhaps impact that career.
“But it’s not just female MPs, it’s Spads (special advisers), civil servants, women working in the media, and there’s the stark reality.
“I don’t think that Westminster is any worse in terms of MPs than you perhaps see in the political lobby. I think there are real problems there as well.
“And I really do think it’s incumbent upon all of us to work together to call it out and to make sure that men who are behaving in this way understand that it’s inappropriate.”
On Thursday, the Prime Minister refused to say whether the Conservatives would launch an investigation.
He told reporters: “First of all, it’s absolutely right that everybody, women in particular, should be able, should have the confidence, to come forward and make complaints.
“There are proper procedures available for people to make their complaints, to make known what has happened and for those to be properly investigated.
“But I’m obviously not going to comment on individual cases.”