Storm over Boris Johnson’s private life overshadows Tory conference

Chancellor Sajid Javid said he has "full faith" in Boris Johnson as a storm over the Prime Minister's private life risked overshadowing the Conservative Party conference.

Downing Street was forced to deny claims that Mr Johnson squeezed the thigh of a female journalist under the table during a private lunch.

Charlotte Edwardes said the incident took place at the offices of The Spectator in London shortly after Mr Johnson became the magazine's editor in 1999.

After the lunch, she said she had confided in the young woman who was sitting on the other side of Mr Johnson, who told her: "Oh God, he did exactly the same to me."

A Number 10 spokesman said: "This allegation is untrue."

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves the stage with his partner Carrie Symonds after delivering his speech during the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his speech during the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (centre) is given a pat on the back by Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, as he leaves the stage after delivering his speech during the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on stage giving his speech at the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivering his speech at the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Prime Minister Boris Johnson exits the hall with his girlfriend Carrie Symonds following his keynote speech on day four of the 2019 Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central on October 2, 2019 in Manchester, England. The U.K. government prepares to formally submit its finalised Brexit plan to the EU today. The offer replaces the Northern Irish Backstop with border, customs and regulatory checks lasting until 2025. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool /Getty Images)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) is kissed by his partner Carrie Symonds as they leave after he delivered his keynote speech to delegates on the final day of the annual Conservative Party conference at the Manchester Central convention complex, in Manchester, north-west England on October 2, 2019. - Prime Minister Boris Johnson was set to unveil his plan for a new Brexit deal at his Conservative party conference Wednesday, warning the EU it is that or Britain leaves with no agreement this month. Downing Street said Johnson would give details of a "fair and reasonable compromise" in his closing address to the gathering in Manchester, and would table the plans in Brussels the same day. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau / POOL / AFP) (Photo by STEFAN ROUSSEAU/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Carrie Symonds and Stanley Johnson, the partner and father of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, watch him deliver his speech during the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a thumbs up as he leaves the stage after delivering his speech during the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Delegates cheer with Union Jack flags to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's arrival to deliver his keynote speech on the final day of the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre. Picture dated: Wednesday October 2, 2019. Photo credit should read: Isabel Infantes / EMPICS Entertainment.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivering his keynote speech on the final day of the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre. Picture dated: Wednesday October 2, 2019. Photo credit should read: Isabel Infantes / EMPICS Entertainment.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves the stage with his partner Carrie Symonds as he is congratulated by his father Stanley Johnson after delivering his speech during the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivering his speech at the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Carrie Symonds and Stanley Johnson, the partner and father of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, watch him deliver his speech during the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Home Secretary Priti Patel leads the cabinet ministers into the hall ahead of the Prime Minister's keynote speech on the final day of the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre. Picture dated: Wednesday October 2, 2019. Photo credit should read: Isabel Infantes / EMPICS Entertainment.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is kissed by his partner his partner Carrie Symonds, after delivering his speech during the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivering his keynote speech on the final day of the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre. Picture dated: Wednesday October 2, 2019. Photo credit should read: Isabel Infantes / EMPICS Entertainment.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his speech during the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Jacob Rees-Mogg during the final day of the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre. Picture dated: Wednesday October 2, 2019. Photo credit should read: Isabel Infantes / EMPICS Entertainment
Carrie Symonds arrives at the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Boris Johnson during the final day of the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre. Picture dated: Wednesday October 2, 2019. Photo credit should read: Isabel Infantes / EMPICS Entertainment
Police arrive at the Conservative Party Conference after a "small misunderstanding" when an attendee, believed to be Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP for The Cotswolds, tried to enter the International Lounge at the Manchester Convention Centre without the relevant pass, triggering a lockdown. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police attend the Conservative Party Conference after a "small misunderstanding" when an attendee, believed to be Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP for The Cotswolds, tried to enter the International Lounge at the Manchester Convention Centre without the relevant pass, triggering a lockdown. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Police officers lock down the International Lounge after an unspecified incident on the third day of the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central at Manchester Central on October 01, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: People are directed away from the International Lounge after an unspecified incident caused it to be locked down on the third day of the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central at Manchester Central on October 01, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Paramedics are stood down following an unspecified incident caused the lock down of the International Lounge during on the third day of the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central at Manchester Central on October 01, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Father of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Stanley Johnson, is seen on the third day of the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central on October 1, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons, during the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Central Convention Complex, Manchester on Tuesday 1 October 2019 (Photo by P Scaasi/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Home Secretary Priti Patel after making her keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Home Secretary Priti Patel delivers her keynote speech on the third day of the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre. Picture dated: Tuesday October 1, 2019. Photo credit should read: Isabel Infantes / EMPICS Entertainment.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 30: UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson arrives ahead of day two of the 2019 Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central on September 30, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, the Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Former Thomas Cook cabin crew and staff protesting outside the Manchester Convention Centre at the Conservative Party Conference. (Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons, Lord President of the Council and MP for North East Somerset speaks at day one of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester , England , 29 September 2019. (Photo by Giannis Alexopoulos/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Armed British police officers hold their weapons as they stand on duty outside the annual Conservative Party conference at the Manchester Central convention complex in Manchester, north-west England on September 30, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
People listen to speakers at the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove on stage at the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre.
A Boris doll at the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre.
(left to right) International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace during the "Builiding a Safe and Prosperous Britain" session on day one of the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre. Picture dated: Sunday September 29, 2019. Photo credit should read: Isabel Infantes / EMPICS Entertainment.
Stands selling merchandise at the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg delivers a speech during the "Delivering Brexit" session on day one of the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove during the "Delivering Brexit" session on day one of the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab delivers a speech during the "Delivering Brexit" session on day one of the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre
(left to right) Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove on stage at the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to North Manchester General Hospital before the Conservative Conference starts at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Stands selling merchandise at the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove arrives to Manchester Central on day one of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to North Manchester General Hospital before the Conservative Conference starts at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets patient Mark Mountaine during a visit to North Manchester General Hospital before the Conservative Conference starts at the Manchester Convention Centre.
Former Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy (left) and former Labour political advisor James Mills playing in the annual party conference football game between Conservative MPs and a team of journalists at the City Football Academy Stadium, Manchester.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks with his partner Carrie Symonds as they arrive at The Midland, near the Manchester Central convention complex in Manchester, northwest England on September 28, 2019, on the eve of the annual Conservative Party conference. - Embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gathers his Conservative party Sunday for what could be its final conference before an election, and is set to be dominated by fighting talk on Brexit. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives, accompanied by partner Carrie Symonds, ahead of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, as the Tories have insisted it will go ahead despite the Commons voting against the Government's request for a three-day recess to coincide with the event.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds arrive at the Conservative Party Conference on September 28, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Preparations underway ahead of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, as the Tories have insisted it will go ahead despite the Commons voting against the Government's request for a three-day recess to coincide with the event.
Police at preparations ahead of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, as the Tories have insisted it will go ahead despite the Commons voting against the Government's request for a three-day recess to coincide with the event.
Police at preparations ahead of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, as the Tories have insisted it will go ahead despite the Commons voting against the Government's request for a three-day recess to coincide with the event.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care leaves the Midland Hotel for a media appearance on the first day of the Conservative Party Conference on September 29, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: James Cleverly, Chairman of the Conservative Party leaves the Midland Hotel for a media appearance on the first day of the Conservative Party Conference on September 29, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Priti Patel, Secretary of State for the Home Department leaves the Midland Hotel for a media appearance on the first day of the Conservative Party Conference on September 29, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves the Midland Hotel for a media appearance on the first day of the Conservative Party Conference on September 29, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) walks with his partner Carrie Symonds as they arrive at The Midland, near the Manchester Central convention complex in Manchester, northwest England on September 28, 2019, on the eve of the annual Conservative Party conference. - Embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gathers his Conservative party Sunday for what could be its final conference before an election, and is set to be dominated by fighting talk on Brexit. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray (2L) and fellow protesters are seen outside the Manchester Central convention centre, the venue of the annual Conservative Party conference, in Manchester, northwest England on September 28, 2019 on the eve of the start of the conference. - Embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gathers his Conservative party Sunday for what could be its final conference before an election, and is set to be dominated by fighting talk on Brexit. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: Armed Police are seen outside the Conservative Party Conference on September 28, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray holds placards outside the Conservative Party Conference on September 28, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Police patrol outside the Manchester Central convention centre, the venue of the annual Conservative Party conference, in Manchester, northwest England on September 28, 2019 on the eve of the start of the conference. - Embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gathers his Conservative party Sunday for what could be its final conference before an election, and is set to be dominated by fighting talk on Brexit. (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers help prepare an auditorium with Conservative Party branding inside Manchester Central convention centre, the venue of the annual Conservative Party conference, in Manchester, northwest England on September 28, 2019 on the eve of the start of the conference. - Embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gathers his Conservative party Sunday for what could be its final conference before an election, and is set to be dominated by fighting talk on Brexit. (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers help prepare Conservative Party branding inside Manchester Central convention centre, the venue of the annual Conservative Party conference, in Manchester, northwest England on September 28, 2019 on the eve of the start of the conference. - Embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gathers his Conservative party Sunday for what could be its final conference before an election, and is set to be dominated by fighting talk on Brexit. (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Conservative Party branded banners are seen outside Manchester Central convention centre, the venue of the annual Conservative Party conference, in Manchester, northwest England on September 28, 2019 on the eve of the start of the conference. - Embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gathers his Conservative party Sunday for what could be its final conference before an election, and is set to be dominated by fighting talk on Brexit. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
A Conservative Party branded tent outside Manchester Central convention centre, the venue of the annual Conservative Party conference, in Manchester, northwest England on September 28, 2019 on the eve of the start of the conference. - Embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gathers his Conservative party Sunday for what could be its final conference before an election, and is set to be dominated by fighting talk on Brexit. (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Conservative Party branded banners and police are seen outside Manchester Central convention centre, the venue of the annual Conservative Party conference, in Manchester, northwest England on September 28, 2019 on the eve of the start of the conference. - Embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gathers his Conservative party Sunday for what could be its final conference before an election, and is set to be dominated by fighting talk on Brexit. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: A man holds a European Union flag as he stands outside the Midland hotel ahead of the Conservative Party Conference on September 28, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, the Conservative Party Conference is still going ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: A general view of the Manchester Central Convention Complex ahead of the Conservative Party Conference on September 28, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess the Conservative Party Conference is still going ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Armed police officers are called to an incident as yet unspecified that caused the lock down of the International Lounge during on the third day of the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central at Manchester Central on October 01, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
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But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he believed Ms Edwardes was trustworthy.

The Chancellor tried to evade questions about the row in a series of broadcast interviews.

"I don't think it's a good idea to get drawn into personal allegations," he told the BBC.

"For my part, I'm not going to get into that.

"The Prime Minister has said that this is completely untrue. I have full faith in the Prime Minister, I don't doubt what he has said for a second but I'm not going to get drawn into these allegations."

Separately, the Prime Minister had to insist there was "no interest to declare" amid a storm over his association with the American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri when he was mayor of London.

In a sign of Tory frustration that questions about Mr Johnson's behaviour are taking attention away from policy announcements at the Conservative Party conference, Mr Javid acknowledged he would "rather be talking about the infrastructure revolution" he has promised.

Former Tory cabinet minister Justine Greening, who now sits as an independent, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I can't comment on those accusations but they are deeply concerning and in a sense they go to the heart of this question about character and integrity of people in public life and what standards the electorate have a right to expect."

Mr Javid is using the conference to set out plans for investments in roads, buses and broadband.

He will use a speech to the conference to outline the first projects that will be included in the promised road investment strategy, a £5 billion package to support the roll-out of broadband and a £220 million fund for buses.

Meanwhile, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick will set out plans to cut red tape which could help home-owners looking to extend and small developers building new properties.

And Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey will announce that new apps aimed at helping young people find work are to be trialled as part of a multimillion-pound employment initiative.

The claims about Mr Johnson's behaviour were made by Ms Edwardes in her first column for The Sunday Times.

She said: "I'm seated on Johnson's right; on his left is a young woman I know.

"More wine is poured; more wine is drunk. Under the table I feel Johnson's hand on my thigh. He gives it a squeeze.

"His hand is high up my leg and he has enough inner flesh beneath his fingers to make me sit suddenly upright."

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.

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