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Fallon, the Tory MP for Sevenoaks who resigned as Defence Secretary after being accused of making lewd comments towards Andrea Leadsom, has now been accused of inappropriately ‘lunging’ to kiss senior political journalist Jane Merrick when she was 29.
Merrick, who was a junior reporter for the Daily Mail at the time, said the incident took place in an ante-room in Westminster shortly after attending a business dinner with the then backbench Tory MP Fallon.
Merrick said that after Fallon ‘lunged’ to kiss her on the lips in a Westminster back-room, she “shrank away in horror and ran off to my office in the Press Gallery”.
Ms Merrick said she did not report the incident at the time because “as someone who had only been in the lobby for two years” she “was worried I would be blacklisted as untrustworthy”.
Writing in The Guardian about the incident, Merrick added that:
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.
Merrick said that she felt compelled to come forward and report the incident after admitting that “Fallon seemed to be getting off the hook” regarding ‘kneegate’, adding that:
…on Tuesday the Sun broke the story that Fallon had admitted to repeatedly touching the journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer’s knee at a conference dinner 15 years ago. I do not want to criticise another woman’s response to harassment, but, in the ensuing coverage the impression was being left that this was a one-off incident that could now be laughed off. I knew that by failing to act I was letting down not only my 29-year-old self, but also any other women who may have been subjected to the same behaviour since. More importantly, I would be failing to protect other women in future.
Merrick was also scathing of Fallon’s failure to apologise for his past actions, saying:
Fallon showed little contrition. Asked if he would apologise for his past behaviour, he said all MPs would have to look back at themselves. He said that “what might have been acceptable 10, 15 years ago is clearly not acceptable now”. But just because my response 14 years ago was to run away, rather than telling him off, it does not mean I found it acceptable. Even his comment about the high standards of the forces seemed to minimise what he had done, as if he was somehow having to meet a higher bar than fellow MPs who could get away with it.
A source close to Mr Fallon indicated that the incident with Ms Merrick had indeed taken place, The Observer reported.
It remains to be seen whether this latest allegation of sexual impropriety against disgraced former Defence Secretary Fallon will finally result in the Conservatives withdrawing the whip.
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