/Boris Johnson told off for laughing as hes grilled on female representation

Boris Johnson told off for laughing as hes grilled on female representation

Boris Johnson was told off for laughing when he was asked about a lack of female decision makers in the government’s  coronavirus response.

Appearing before the House of Commons liaison committee, the prime minister was told by chair Sir Bernard Jenkin: “It’s not a joking matter.”

Since the Downing Street press conferences began on 16 March, all but three have been led by male ministers.

And during the pandemic, Johnson has been criticised for forming a leading decision making team of male cabinet ministers: Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove.

Tory MP Caroline Nokes, who is chair of the women and equalities committee, asked Johnson why women have not been more visible during Downing Street’s response to the outbreak.

He said: “It’s certainly true that I would have liked to have had more female representation in the press conferences so far.

Caroline Nokes grilled Boris Johnson
(Image: UNPIXS (Europe))

“Er, we’ve had, er, Jennie Harries has been mentioned. Priti [Patel, the home secretary] has done a few… we will do our best, Caroline.

“And, erm, you know, er, what can I say?”

Nokes then followed up: “You made the distinction between there being a lot of women and enough women. How many is enough?”

Johnson responded “oh boy” before laughing. “That’s a question on which I’m not competent to pronounce.”

Nokes questioned: “Is it not 50%?”

Jenkin then told Johnson: “It’s not a joking matter though, is it?”

The PM responded: “It’s not and all I’d say, Caroline, is it’s incredibly important to us as Conservatives. Fifty per cent would be great. We have large numbers of female MPs of great talent including yourself in the House of Commons.”

Johnson almost shouted: “And, never forget, it’s only the Conservative Party that has produced two female prime ministers… maybe you’ll be the third.”

The PM was  urged by former Tory colleague Amber Rudd not to “pack the women away”. She said “equality means better decisions”.

The Prime Minister said he thought there was sufficient female representation at the top of Government helping to inform decisions on coronavirus – and acknowledged that having women in the room makes a “huge difference” to the nature of decisions taken.

But Mr Johnson told MPs on the Liaison Committee: “It’s certainly true that I would have liked to have had more female representation at the press conferences so far.”

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The Government has been criticised for the lack of women fronting the briefings – with Home Secretary Priti Patel the only female Cabinet minister to have appeared, and only a handful of times.

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Coronavirus outbreak

Mr Johnson also said that female workers have been “harder hit” by the pandemic, because “very often they will have jobs, particularly lower paid jobs, that make it more difficult for them to work from home”.

Later after the committee hearing Ms Nokes tweeted in response to criticism of her line of questioning.

She said: “My job as the Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee is to scrutinise the Government and hold it to account – sorry if my questions to the PM (all within my brief) were seen by some as too tough.”

The CEO of the Fawcett Society Sam Smethers replied to that tweet saying: “I think you did a brilliant job.”

The liaison committee, which is made up of chairs of the select committees, is the only House of Commons committee that can question a Prime Minister.

PMs usually appear before the liaison committee two or three times a year.

However, before Wednesday, Johnson had gone an entire 10 months as PM without attending.

Original Source