'I was given permission,' Joe Biden jokes as he hugs union official

Former Vice President Joe Biden has made light of his tendency to be affectionate, in his first public appearance since several women accused him of being physically inappropriate with them.

He began his entrance at an electrical workers union conference in Washington, DC with a hug for union president Lonnie Stephenson.

As he turned to face the crowd he quipped: "I just want you to know I had permission to hug Lonnie."

His remarks prompted laughter from the audience but it follows a serious promise he made to be "more mindful about respecting personal space".

Several women said Mr Biden, who is widely tipped to run as a Democratic presidential nomination, made them feel "uncomfortable".

Lucy Flores, a former Nevada Democrat state representative, claimed he gave her a "big slow kiss" on the back of the head in 2014.

The alleged incident, which took place at a rally in Las Vegas, made her feel "uneasy".

Mr Biden was also accused of inappropriate behaviour by former Democratic congressional aide Amy Lappos.

She said Biden tried to kiss her but then "rubbed noses" with her at a fundraising event in 2009.

During the alleged incident, Ms Lappos claimed Mr Biden "wrapped both his hands around my face" and pulled her towards him.

A further three women have come forward in the past few days with accounts that Mr Biden had allegedly inappropriately touched them, according to the Washington Post, taking the total number to seven.