Damian Green, all women know the difference between a hand and a tablecloth

written for The Sunday Times5 November 2017

Moments of great social change are painful. As a natural conservative I have always known this. Writing in The Times last Tuesday, I explained that I had experienced unwelcome attention from Damian Green, who is now a cabinet minister — and I came forward as part of a movement by many women to demand a change in the culture that enables such behaviour.

I knew it would provoke attacks on me and further a difficult rupture in the social culture of British politics. But even I did not know it would be so personally hard.

In my original statement I did not call for Green’s resignation as a minister or as an MP. I explained that he had made what I considered sexual advances over a drink to discuss my career and that after I avoided him he followed up with a sexually suggestive text message.

These are not resigning matters. When The Times put my allegations to him, I was expecting an apology. Instead, I got a denial.

The response was a public attack on my credibility. Sources close to him appear to have contributed to a series of allegations about me in the media, seeming to imply that I had maliciously fabricated the story for personal gain or to jump on a “bandwagon” after the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

Shortly afterwards, however, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC came forward to confirm that I had confided in her a year ago about Green and was unlikely to have fabricated the story. At least two other women have said the same in public — and there are others who have offered to give similar evidence in private to a forthcoming Cabinet Office inquiry.

So my accusers changed tack. Seeming to accept that I genuinely believe my own claims, “friends of Damian Green” now suggest I may not have been able to tell the difference between the touch of a human hand and the flicker of tablecloth. This is the only story in a very difficult week that has given me reason to crack a hollow smile. Women know the difference between a hand and a tablecloth.

I still do not believe Green’s previous behaviour to me to constitute a resigning matter. I have no ideological reason to undermine him; he is from the same wing of the Tory party as I am and, like me, he voted to remain in the EU.

However, my parents and I have been deeply distressed by the character assassination that appears to have been launched against me. A number of claims made in last week’s Daily Mail are categorically untrue.

I cannot address them all here, but they run the gamut from insulting to absurd. The claim that I ever attempted to ingratiate myself with Samantha Cameron amazes me. I have never contacted Mrs Cameron — we have very occasionally been in the same large rooms for public events, but have never spoken. For the record, I do not believe the allegation came from Samantha Cameron or from anyone she currently considers a friend.

My parents were deeply distressed by comments attributed to an anonymous “family friend” that they “will be absolutely aghast by what Kate has done”. In fact, I confided in my mother at the time it occurred, who shortly after told my father with my permission. It is not true that they still consider themselves friends with Green and they have given me loving, unstinting support.

I would also like to confirm that I received no payment for last Tuesday’s article or for this piece. I have repeatedly turned down other media requests. I have not made allegations against any other MP and have no connection with the extremely questionable “dossier” of sexual behaviour recently circulated which has only served to confuse our understanding of sexual assault. Each claim must be evaluated on its own merits and I can confirm that I have been co-operating with the Cabinet Office inquiry into Green’s behaviour. I did not go into this in order to force other women to go public and I am reassured that Ms Gray will be hearing evidence in confidence.

One thing I can say: whatever the claims elsewhere of my political or television ambition, my main career has always been as a theatre writer.

While the arts world, like Westminster, assesses its complicity in sexual harassment, I have been thinking of the many women and young men who have confided in me over the years about harassment by well-known industry leaders.

As a feminist theatre writer, I have often wished that I could persuade them to break cover. When I examined my conscience, I realised that I could not even privately encourage other women to tell their stories if I was not prepared to tell mine first.

Whether in theatre, politics or any other industry, all we are asking for is the freedom to be treated professionally. If that is a major culture shift, it is long overdue.