The former first secretary of state and de facto deputy prime minister Damian Green has been accused of plotting to discredit the woman who accused him of sexually inappropriate behaviour.
The Mail on Sunday has reported on a series of text messages, apparently between Mr Green, 61, and journalist and Conservative activist Kate Maltby, whose allegations against the close ally of Theresa May partly led to his resignation.
In contrast, The Sunday Times has a story about MPs accusing Mr Green of leaking those same text messages. It is also being alleged that the messages were edited to undermine Ms Maltby’s testimony.
Ms Maltby said on Twitter on Sunday morning that she was considering legal action, after being “forced to consider all recourse”.
One version of the texts seen by The Sunday Times puts Ms Maltby in the driving seat, asking to meet up with Mr Green. But the paper says the unaltered version tells a different story, with the former cabinet minister suggesting they “fix a date soon”.
Former Conservative minister Anna Soubry attacked Mr Green, saying: “Any attempt to smear or trash [Ms Maltby] was wrong and shameful.”
Mr Green told Sky News: “I have not leaked any material given to the inquiry.”
Meanwhile a “source close to Green” told The Sunday Times that he “totally denies having anything” to do with the leaked texts, suggesting they “could have easily been relayed via other people”.
Ms Maltby, in a separate article for The Sunday Times, said: “In the days before I made my allegation public, I became aware of two young women who were considering making allegations against him (Mr Green). Their positions were more vulnerable, their allegations more serious.”
In response to this allegation, Mr Green said: “I have no idea what this refers to, and no such allegations were put to me.”
Ms Maltby posted several tweets on Sunday morning in which she claimed the Mail on Sunday had misrepresented her text messages.
Friends of Ms Maltby have told Sky News: “Kate is grateful that the Prime Minister took a strong line on Damian Green and she accepts that Theresa May is serious about combating sexual harassment in Westminster, but the Prime Minister needs to work harder to ensure her MPs do not smear accusers who come forward.”
In an article in The Times last month, Ms Maltby accused Mr Green of touching her leg while they had a drink in Waterloo. “I felt a fleeting hand against my knee – so brief, it was almost deniable,” she wrote.
Mr Green resigned on Wednesday after a report cleared him of watching or downloading pornography, but found he made two “misleading” and “inaccurate” statements about knowledge of the claims.
The Cabinet Office inquiry found Ms Maltby’s claims to be “plausible”, but said it was “not possible to reach a definitive conclusion on the appropriateness of Mr Green’s behaviour”.
Mr Green said he “deeply regretted” the “distress” caused to Ms Maltby and acknowledged that he “clearly made her feel uncomfortable – and for this I apologise”.