Downing Street today refused to say whether Boris Johnson now regrets sexist comments he made in the past, but insisted the prime minister has a “strong track record” on support for women and girls.
The comment came after Mr Johnson called in the House of Commons for a “cultural and social change in attitudes” in the UK to deal with the issue of “casual everyday sexism” in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard.
The prime minister has frequently come under fire for frequent sexist remarks, many made in newspaper articles while working as a journalist.
In a media briefing following prime minister’s questions, his press secretary Allegra Stratton was asked several times whether he now regretted referring to women as “hot totty”, saying children of single mothers were “ill-raised, ignorant and illegitimate”, berating men for the inability to “take control of their women” or calling David Cameron a “girly swot”.
But she refused to address the issue of his past comments, telling reporters: “The prime minister certainly feels that he had a strong track record on this issue as London mayor.”
Asked whether the PM felt he could help the fight against sexism by being open about any regrets over the language he has previously used, she replied: “He has used prime minister’s questions, where the country is listening and watching, to call out what he called everyday casual sexism.
“He is using his position and his power to say we need to call time on these issues and the experience for women and girls as they go about their daily lives.”
Ms Stratton said that Mr Johnson would describe himself 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 that the Violence Against Women and Girls consultation being conducted by Mr Johnson’s government has received almost 140,000 responses since being reopened on Friday, which would inform “a big piece of work” in the summer.
“This is not something to which the prime minister has been recently converted, it’s something he was looking at in 2009,” she said.
And she added: “You saw the tone from both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition at prime minister’s questions. Both were treating this issue with the seriousness it deserves.
“Women and girls across the country now want real action and will be pleased to hear their prime minister evidently understanding, that what too many of them experience on the streets is being taken seriously at the top of government.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies