‘Well done for destroying the only man who could beat Sadiq Khan’: I named Daniel Korski as the Downing Street groper and he quit the London mayor race. Since then I’ve been trolled, abused and doubted – but I DON’T regret speaking out, says DAISY GOODWIN

A couple of months ago, I wrote in this newspaper about being groped at 10 Downing Street a decade ago by a special adviser to the then prime minister David Cameron. He put his hand on my breast.

The piece was triggered by the fact that Daniel Korski, the man in question, was in first place to be the Tory mayoral candidate for London. I felt very strongly that voters in the capital should know the kind of man they might be voting for.

When the story came out, Korski went on TalkTV to say he had no recollection of the incident. The next day, he withdrew his candidacy and stepped back as the joint CEO of Public, the company he founded to introduce tech companies to government departments.

It wasn’t an easy decision to speak out about this publicly. In fact, three of my closest girlfriends, who work in the media, all advised against it. They were worried that by identifying Korski I would be ‘victim blamed’ – that people would question my motives for making this public, and my reputation would be tarnished as a result.

They said – correctly – that I would be trolled, and that Korski had influence in high places and it might backfire on me.

Sleepless nights: Daisy Goodwin does not regret speaking out

Denial: Tory mayoral hopeful Daniel Korski on the day Daisy¿s piece came out

Denial: Tory mayoral hopeful Daniel Korski on the day Daisy’s piece came out

One of them said: ‘I get that the guy is a sleazeball, but what’s in it for you?’

I couldn’t help but reflect on my friends’ advice when I met a senior Tory who I count as a friend recently. His first words to me were: ‘Well done for destroying the career of the only man who stood any chance of beating Sadiq Khan.’

I could only say that I don’t think many Tories want a groper to be in charge of the safety of women and girls in the capital.

And the answer to what’s in it for me? Well, nothing but the rare sensation of knowing you are doing the right thing. Any pushback I have received on speaking out has been worth it in my view: I have two daughters, aged 23 and 30, and I want them to live in a world where they can go to work without having to contend with predatory men.

The only way that can happen is if women can complain when a man touches them in a sexual way in the workplace: whether it’s a hand on their thigh at a meeting in a coffee shop, a buttock fondle at a conference – or even a kiss on the lips after winning the World Cup.

The fact that the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales did not immediately apologise for the now-infamous, unwanted kiss, let alone resign, shows there are still powerful men who just don’t get it.

When a decent man realises that he has touched a woman in a way that she finds intrusive, he says he is sorry – promptly and unequivocally – and I think most women would accept that apology.

If Korski had apologised to me, I might have given him the benefit of the doubt, although every woman knows the difference between an accidental brush and surreptitious feel. But I have heard nothing from him.

When approached for the original article, a spokesman for him said: ‘In the strongest possible terms, Dan categorically denies any allegation of inappropriate behaviour whatsoever.’

Women aren’t the only ones to get harassed at work. Last month, Labour MP Sir Chris Bryant wrote about being repeatedly groped by other gay male MPs when he first went to the Commons, and called for higher standards in Westminster, and there may well be female politicians who behave as badly as their male counterparts.

The problem is that most of the victims of sexual harassment do not want to go public.

I agonised for weeks about whether I should name Korski.

Even though I felt it was morally right, I didn’t feel great about the damage it might do to his family. He is married with two children.

I am not a vengeful person by nature, and I did wonder before I pressed ‘send’ on the finished article, whether I had the right to complain, when really the effect on me had been humiliating but not traumatic. What clinched it for me was a conversation with my older daughter who said: ‘Well, how will you feel if he is elected mayor and you said nothing?’ But, even then, I spent a sleepless night.

The very day my piece was published, however, I was contacted by a number of women with almost identical stories about their encounters with him. Although I was dismayed by their stories, I felt much more confident about my decision to go public.

It made me realise how lucky I was to be in a position where I could speak out without being scared of losing a job, or having my career blighted.

The women all said how pleased they were that someone had identified Korski at last, but they also said they did not want to speak out publicly for fear of the repercussions. All these women worked either for the civil service or in the tech industry, two areas where Korski has had influence.

Daniel Korski's resignation letter following the allegations

Daniel Korski’s resignation letter following the allegations

I couldn't help but reflect on my friends' advice when I met a senior Tory who I count as a friend recently. His first words to me were: 'Well done for destroying the career of the only man who stood any chance of beating Sadiq Khan.'

I couldn’t help but reflect on my friends’ advice when I met a senior Tory who I count as a friend recently. His first words to me were: ‘Well done for destroying the career of the only man who stood any chance of beating Sadiq Khan.’

One woman, who said that she had been groped by Korski in a public place, did not want to go on the record because she thought she would be labelled as a troublemaker.

She did say, though, that she would testify if Korski sued me for libel (that hasn’t happened so far).

There has been one follow-up piece in the Financial Times, where three women – one a senior government official – have confirmed that they had similar encounters with Korski to mine, but none wanted to be named.

One detailed how Korski, mid-conversation, touched her knee and then ‘put his hand on my thigh, well above my knee: mid-thigh’, she told the Financial Times. ‘I had no warning it was coming, and I froze.’

When she met Korski again, at a business meeting with two members of his team, he stood behind her and put his hands between her neck and her shoulders for just under ten seconds.

Thereafter, the woman vowed ‘to never be in a position where he could touch me again’.

Through his lawyers, Korski ’emphatically and vehemently’ denies the allegations in the FT.

I understand why these women are reluctant to come forward and, if they do, why they don’t want to be named. Women want to be known for their achievements, not for being groped.

It’s humiliating to have to talk about how a man touched your breast or fondled your bottom in public. It’s enraging when people say to you, as Radio 4 Today host Martha Kearney said to me on the morning the news broke: ‘And are you absolutely certain about what happened to you?’

Of course, no one is above suspicion, and there may indeed be women who make things up, but I have no doubt they are hugely outnumbered by the women who are molested and are too scared to say anything.

I was troubled by the reaction of an American female friend who has two sons and a daughter. She said to me: ‘Of course I believe you, but what about all the female students who can get a boy expelled from college by claiming that they kissed them without consent? I was really worried that might happen to one of my boys, just because some girl got mad with them and made up a story.’

I had to take a deep breath at this remark. ‘But how would you feel if your daughter told you that a boy had groped her? Would you believe her?’ I asked her. There was a long pause.

I have received some criticism from random strangers online about the fact that I did nothing immediately after the incident occurred in 2013. It has been suggested that I should have made a formal complaint to the PM’s office or Conservative Party.

At the time I didn’t, because I have spent my working life dealing with predatory men and my policy had always been to ignore them. I wasn’t going to let them derail me.

And, in this case, it was not at all clear who I should complain to. Should I have written to the prime minister? The answer I now realise is, yes, even though, in those pre #MeToo days, I feel pretty sure that nothing would have happened. It would have been filed under ‘troublemakers’. Me that is, not him.

I feel sure about this because when I did write a piece outlining what had happened to me – without identifying Korski – in 2017, he was named by a Conservative news site within hours. Within No. 10 and Whitehall, Korski clearly had a reputation. One senior politician was quoted to me as saying: ‘We all knew Korski was handsy, but he was just so clever.’

When I did finally try and file a complaint with No 10 two months ago, I was left on hold so long I was able to make a family-sized lasagne from scratch.

Finally, I was passed to someone in the No 10 ‘Ethics’ department, who told me that because Korski no longer worked for No 10 they had no remit to investigate his behaviour. All he could suggest was that I went to the police.

I also tried to get in touch with the Conservative Party, but they did not reply to my email, which I felt said it all.

They have said publicly that, as the incident took place while he was working for No 10, they have no jurisdiction over the matter. In other words, this was ancient history and no one was going to take responsibility for it.

Except Korski’s behaviour is not ancient history. One of the women who got in contact with me had been groped by Korski in 2018.

Korski himself admits that he told the Conservative Party about my ‘allegations’ against him when he declared his mayoral candidacy. But clearly this did not ring any warning bells with the party.

'I am relieved that Korski stepped back from the mayoral campaign, not because he offended me, but because it sent out a signal that this kind of behaviour is no longer acceptable in public life'

‘I am relieved that Korski stepped back from the mayoral campaign, not because he offended me, but because it sent out a signal that this kind of behaviour is no longer acceptable in public life’

No one from the Conservative Party has ever contacted me to find out what happened. I can only imagine that the powers that be thought that fielding a ‘ladies man’ as the Tory mayoral candidate had been a super successful strategy for them in the past.

One columnist in The Spectator pointed out that Korski was an attractive man, and since I was ‘a very attractive woman whose comeliness had not always been a disadvantage in my chosen line of work’, we should not be a ‘society that criminalises the unwanted pass’.

I agree we don’t want to criminalise unwanted passes, but we do want to make them unacceptable in the workplace, from 10 Downing Street down.

And I don’t think grabbing a breast qualifies as a pass, unless you are a caveman.

It is time that Whitehall and political parties in general led by example and issued a code of conduct in the workplace. This might have to be painfully literal – ‘no touching between the knee and neck’, for example – but at least it would make it clear what the rules are.

It may sound like I am stating the bleeding obvious, but while every woman knows when a touch is inappropriate, clearly there are a lot of men that don’t.

There are women I spoke to who didn’t report Korski because they didn’t want to make a fuss about a grope. But I think the only way we can stop this happening is to have a zero-tolerance policy towards groping, touching, fondling or anything else.

Make it clear what inappropriate behaviour is, and appoint an independent ombudsman who can investigate complaints, so women feel confident that their claims will be looked into thoroughly, and that there is somebody independent they can report them to in the first place.

This is important for everyone – for the women who know they no longer have to suffer in silence, and for the men who will have a chance to put their case forward.

Since I went public about Korski I have had lots of messages from friends, acquaintances and strangers congratulating me on speaking up, and at least 50 per cent of those messages were from men.

Most men, thank goodness, do not think that women in the workplace are fair game; they treat their female co-workers as colleagues, not sex objects, and they disapprove of men that don’t.

But it’s possible that the kind of ego you need to succeed in politics means it is hard for you to believe that a woman might not welcome your sexual advances. That’s why I believe a code of conduct is essential.

If you can have no-smoking offices, why can’t you have no groping ones?

I am not a millennial snowflake, I am a 61-year-old woman who wants her daughters to be able to go to work and feel quite confident in calling out ‘handsy men’. I don’t care how clever or talented they are, men who are ‘handsy’ at work have no place in public life.

I think we should be just as intolerant of inappropriate touching as we are of racist or homophobic language. And if you think this is woke nonsense gone mad, just imagine how you would feel if someone had groped your daughter, sister or mother in the workplace, and she was too frightened of the consequences to complain.

Maybe this behaviour was tolerated a generation ago when I was starting out, but then there were ashtrays on every desk, too. Of course, smoking affects everyone’s health, while sexual harassment mostly happens to women.

I am relieved that Korski stepped back from the mayoral campaign, not because he offended me, but because it sent out a signal that this kind of behaviour is no longer acceptable in public life. Bring in a code of conduct and make sure it doesn’t happen again.


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