I’m writing this from the Conservative party conference where Boris’s attempt to ram home the message that he’s the only party leader capable of getting Brexit done is being drowned out by the claim by Charlotte Edwardes, a Sunday Times columnist, that he squeezed her thigh under the table at a Spectator lunch 20 years ago. In the #MeToo era, this is a bigger news story than our imminent departure from the EU. Or perhaps just a blessed respite from the relentless Brexit coverage.
I didn’t help by making a throwaway gag on Monday at a fringe meeting organised by the TaxPayers’ Alliance where I was a panellist. A blue rinse in the audience said she’d been groped by an older man two decades ago and asked the panel if we thought she needed psychological counselling. That got a big laugh and I responded by telling her that things were a lot more relaxed in the late 1990s: ‘Back then at The Spectator, in those raucous days, people complained if Boris didn’t put his hand on their knee.’
That, too, got a laugh and it was clearly a joke, not a statement of fact. But a beady-eyed hack at the back of the room started scribbling in his notepad and about an hour later I was trending on Twitter. For those unfamiliar with the po-faced digital outrage machine, that means more people in the UK were tweeting about me than any other topic. (To read more, click here.)