Boris Johnson battles controversies over professional conduct

Boris Johnson. (File Photo: IANS)

London, Sep 30 (PTI) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, already under pressure as the October 31 Brexit deadline looms, has denied allegations by a UK journalist of inappropriate touching 10 years ago.

The controversy around his conduct came days after he similarly denied any impropriety in alleged special treatment for a former American model-turned-businesswoman during his time as London Mayor.

The latest storm emerged over the weekend in a column in ‘The Sunday Times’ when journalist Charlotte Edwardes recalled a lunch event in 1999 during which Johnson, then editor of the ‘Spectator’ magazine, touched her thigh.

She wrote: “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.”

Asked on Monday if the incident had taken place, Johnson categorically replied: “No.”

“I think what the public want to hear is what we are doing to bring the country together and get on with improving their lives,” said Johnson, who is leading his first Conservative Party conference as Prime Minister.

Edwardes had written about another woman at the lunch who she said later told her that Johnson had done the same to her.

There was some speculation that the second woman may have been ‘Spectator’ magazine commissioning editor Mary Wakefield, who is married to Johnson’s close aide Dominic Cummings.

But she issued a statement on Monday to clarify she was “not the woman referred to in Charlotte Edwardes’s column”.

“Boris was a good boss and nothing like this ever happened to me. Nor has Charlotte, who I like and admire, ever discussed the incident with me,” she said.

The latest row comes soon after questions over Johnson’s ties with Jennifer Arcuri, a US-based tech entrepreneur and former model who allegedly received access to key business tours and even funding from the Mayor of London’s office during 2016-2018.

The British PM has insisted he acted with “full propriety” during his mayoral term, even as the Greater London Authority (GLA) in charge of mayoral work has referred the issue to the police watchdog.

The GLA has asked the UK’s Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to assess whether the prime minister should be formally investigated over his relationship with Arcuri.

Meanwhile, Johnson is leading his party’s conference with the central message of “Get Brexit Done” as he continues to pursue his “do or die” pledge for Britain to leave the European Union (EU) by October 31, with or without an agreement in place.

Opposition groups are holding their own deliberations to explore options to try and unseat Johnson with a so-called compromise caretaker prime minister candidate in order to prevent a no-deal crash-out from the EU.

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