More allegations surface in Westminster sleaze scandal

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Fresh sleaze allegations hit the Government as Westminster's swirl of sexual harassment claims continued to spiral.

Sir Michael Fallon's shock Cabinet resignation was cast in new light as it emerged a journalist contacted Downing Street hours before his abrupt departure claiming he had lunged at her and tried to kiss her on the lips in 2003.

Jane Merrick alleged in The Observer that the incident took place after a lunch when she was a 29-year-old junior political reporter.

She said: "I felt humiliated, ashamed.

"Was I even guilty that maybe I had led him on in some way by drinking with him? After years of having a drink with so many other MPs who have not acted inappropriately towards me, I now know I was not."

Jane Merrick
Jane Merrick alleged the incident took place after a lunch when she was a 29-year-old junior political reporter (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ms Merrick said she "shrank away in horror and ran off to my office in the press gallery" following the alleged incident.

The claims came as a wave of sexual harassment allegations sweeping Westminster showed little sign of easing.

The Mail on Sunday reported that Tory whip Chris Pincher had been accused of making an unwanted pass at former Olympic rower and Conservative activist Alex Story.

Mr Pincher told the newspaper: "If Mr Story has ever felt offended by anything I said, then I can only apologise to him."

Meanwhile, First Secretary of State Damian Green has strongly denied claims by a former police chief that pornographic material was found on one of his Commons computers.

pic.twitter.com/1RILHtLpxd

-- Damian Green (@DamianGreen) November 4, 2017

The Sunday Times reported that ex-Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Bob Quick alleged the material was discovered by officers during an inquiry into government leaks in 2008.

Mr Green, who is effectively Prime Minister Theresa May's deputy, said: "This story is completely untrue and comes from a tainted and untrustworthy source."

The allegations came as Labour's Harriet Harman hit back at claims that a witch hunt against politicians was under way.

The former deputy party leader told the BBC: "There are a lot of men saying this has been totally blown out of all proportion, this a witch hunt. No, it's not a witch hunt, it's long overdue."

That view was at odds with Tory backbencher Sir Roger Gale, who, giving a hypothetical example of a woman claiming a man kissed her in a lift five years ago, told the BBC: "How does a Member of Parliament refute that? It's a witch hunt."

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said she was ashamed at some of the "disgusting" allegations of sexual abuse in the Labour Party.

Emily Thornberry
Emily Thornberry said she was ashamed at some of the allegations of sexual abuse in the Labour Party (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Ms Thornberry, who said she had experienced inappropriate behaviour, told the BBC: "Some of the things that I have heard in the last week have been so disgusting and I am ashamed that this could happen in the Labour Party."

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell called for party leaders to agree new independent procedures when they meet next week to discuss how to deal with sexual harassment claims.

He told the BBC: "We have had one of our members come forward and said that she was raped. That is just unacceptable.

"We have had sexual harassment across all the political parties by the looks of it. So, we have got to tackle it."