Caroline Nokes says Boris Johnson is not a feminist

Senior Tory rejects Boris Johnson’s claim to be ‘a feminist’, saying: ‘Judge him by his actions’

Prime minister fails the test because of a dismal refusal to promote women, Caroline Nokes says

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Friday 26 March 2021 16:57

A senior Conservative MP has dismissed Boris Johnson’s claim to be “a feminist” – pointing to his dismal failure to promote women.

Downing Street – confronted with criticism of the prime minister’s past sexist comments – insisted he deserves to be called a feminist, urging people to “look back at his record”.

But Caroline Nokes, the chair of the Commons women and equalities committee, said a key test was the make-up of the Cabinet, which remained overwhelmingly male.

“I got really quite cross with a comment, as reported to me, that the prime minister accepted he needed to have more women in his Cabinet – he shouldn’t be accepting it, you should want it, “ she told the Tory spring forum.

“Do I think the prime minister is a feminist? No I don’t. I think we have to judge him by his actions, not his words.”

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Ms Nokes protested that the proportion of female Cabinet ministers was actually falling, saying: “I mean, how can that even be possible? At a time when we’ve not obviously had a reshuffle?

“We’re not hearing from women in the press conferences and on the Sunday morning broadcast rounds,” she told a panel event hosted by iNHouse Communications at the online forum.

The comments come after Mr Johnson was accused of hypocrisy when he called for an end to “casual everyday sexism” in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard.

It was pointed out that he had previously referred to women as “hot totty”, called the children of single mothers “ill-raised, ignorant and illegitimate” – and berated men for failing to “take control of their women”.

Just one woman – home secretary Priti Patel – has led any of the scores of Downing Street press conferences through the Covid-19 pandemic, and only four times.

Mr Nokes also protested that Suella Braverman, the pregnant attorney general, had been replaced by a man – as had Alok Sharma, the business secretary handed responsibility for the Cop26 summit.

When a justice group was put together to discuss violence against women, there was “only one woman around the table of Cabinet rank”, something Ms Nokes branded “horrific”.

When it was announced that Mr Johnson is too busy to take paternity leave, to help look after his young son Wilf, his press secretary Allegra Stratton insisted he does “an awful lot of childcare”.

And, describing him as a feminist, she pointed to his 2009 launch as London mayor of a “call to action” to end violence against women, including the quadrupling of funding for rape crisis centres.

“People should look back at his record, not just in government at the moment where you have a Domestic Abuse Bill going through the Lords and the Sentencing Bill that will increase sentences for rapists and paedophiles,” she said.

“This is not something to which the prime minister has been recently converted, it’s something he was looking at in 2009.” 

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