Boris Johnson questions his past ‘attitudes’ towards women amid misogyny row at parliament

Prime minister said voting Tory can ‘cause your wife to have bigger breasts’ and admired volleyball players ’glistening like wet otters‘

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 03 May 2022 19:04 BST

Boris Johnson has questioned his own past “attitudes” towards women, as controversy rages over misogyny at Westminster.

The prime minister has been criticised for joking that voting Tory can “cause your wife to have bigger breasts” and for admiring “semi-naked” volleyball players “glistening like wet otters”.

The remarks were raked up when he condemned the behaviour of Neil Parish, the Conservative MP forced to quit for watching porn at parliament as “totally unacceptable”.

Quizzed on the Tory record on women, Mr Johnson was asked: “Do you ever look back on your own conduct towards women and regret any past attitudes?”

“I’m sure every human being looks back over episodes in their lives and wonders whether they might have done things differently,” he told Times Radio.

The comment came as the prime minister revealed he had “not so far” received a questionnaire from the Metropolitan Police for a leaving party in No 10, held for his outgoing director of communications Lee Cain.

There are reports that some Downing Street staff have received questionnaires about the event, held on the same November 2020 night as the ‘Abba’ party in his own flat.

No 10 has not denied a claim that Mr Johnson effectively turned it into a leaving party by making a speech and by “pouring drinks for people and drinking himself”.

Asked if he had received a questionnaire, the prime minister said: “I’m not commenting on this stuff generally, but I can tell you the answer to that is no – not so far, or not to my knowledge.”

He declined to back calls for the Conservative candidate in Tiverton and Honiton, the Devon seat vacated by Mr Parish, to be a woman, arguing that is “a matter for the local association”.

But he argued: “I think the Conservative Party can be incredibly proud of what we’ve done to promote women in politics.

“We’re the only party to produce any female prime minister – we’ve actually produced two.

“If you look at the current Conservative government it has got women at every level, brilliant women at every level. And I think two of the four top jobs in government are currently held by women.

“Things have changed massively. When I came in, in 2001, it was very, very different, the atmosphere. We’ve come on in leaps and bounds.”

The accusation of misogyny has also been levelled at Mr Johnson for a criticism made of his great Tory rival that changes to working practices at the Commons were “introduced by girly swot Cameron”.

In the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics, he said: “There are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto.

“They are glistening like wet otters and the water is splashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers.”

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