Former Chancellor Ken Clarke has denied ever meeting a former actor who claimed he groped him when he was a teenager, describing the allegation as so ridiculous it was “rather like Martians landing.”
Mr Clarke – who is still a Conservative Member of Parliament – told the Old Bailey that the claim made against him by Ben Fellows was “off the Richter scale” in terms of its outlandishness.
“I never felt any compulsion in my life to grope another man,” he said.
Fellows is on trial accused of perverting the course of justice after claiming that Clarke plied him with alcohol before touching his “private parts” in 1994. He claims that he was working undercover for investigative TV show the Cook Report during a cash-for-questions sting operation against political lobbyist Ian Greer, and that the assault took place in Greer’s office.
However, Clarke said that he did not think he had ever met Greer. He also laughed off the suggestion that as Chancellor of the Exchequer he would have time to “go strolling off” into someone’s office in the middle of the afternoon.
The Telegraph reports that fellows also told police that people who had worked with him on the Cook Report were aware of the assault, but the programme’s presenter, Roger Cook, last week told the court he had never even heard of Mr Fellows.
The court also heard that police had interviewed several people who had worked on the Cook Report, none of whom recalled the assault.
Fellows told national newspaper reporters about the allegations in 2012 and stories were published implicating a “senior Conservative politician”.
Clarke said that he first became aware of the allegations when his son saw a story online: “He spotted that a person called Ben Fellows was making rather nasty allegations about me on the Internet.
“It upset my son and it upset me as well. My staff made attempts to get it taken off the internet but it was hopeless.”
Fellows was also interviewed by police as part of the Operation Fairbank investigation into alleged child sex abuse at Westminster, but officers concluded he was lying and started to treat him as a suspect rather than a victim.
Clarke, who was making his first public appearance since his wife Gillian died from cancer earlier this month, said the allegation was “bizarre”.
He also said the job of Chancellor was “all absorbing”.
“I don’t just spend a day strolling around going to meetings and going for a walk in the park in the afternoon,” he said.