Tory MP says Boris Johnson's cabinet has 'forgotten' women during easing of lockdown

James MorrisSenior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
Yahoo News UK
Caroline Nokes has said her former cabinet colleague Boris Johnson eased the coronavirus lockdown in favour of men. (Getty Images/AP)
Caroline Nokes has said her former cabinet colleague Boris Johnson eased the coronavirus lockdown in favour of men. (Getty Images/AP)

A Tory MP has claimed Boris Johnson has “forgotten” women during the easing of the coronavirus lockdown.

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Caroline Nokes, chair of the Commons women and equalities committee, criticised the government for making decisions “driven by men, for men, ignoring the voices of women”.

In an article for the Conservative Home website, Nokes pointed to businesses such as nail bars and pilates studios being unable to reopen in the latest easing of the lockdown, which is set for Saturday.

The Romsey and Southampton North MP also said sectors "where employees are largely women" – such as retail and hospitality – are reopening as childcare providers struggle to reopen fully due to social distancing requirements.

She questioned if the government “just assumed that women will be happy to stay home and do the childcare and home schooling”.

Nokes claimed that if Johnson “needed to sort the childcare, get his nails done and his legs waxed”, Saturday’s easing of the lockdown might have been looked different.

During the pandemic, the government has been criticised – including by Nokes – for male-dominated decision making.

For example, Johnson chose four men to be in his coronavirus “war cabinet”: Michael Gove, Matt Hancock, Dominic Raab and Rishi Sunak.

It prompted former cabinet minister Amber Rudd to urge the PM: “Don’t pack the women away.”

Meanwhile, of the government’s 92 daily Downing Street press briefings between 16 March and 23 June, only three were led by a woman: Priti Patel.

In her article, Nokes pointed to statistics showing football audiences are 67% male, while pilates and yoga have predominantly female client bases.

She said: “Why oh why have we seen the urge to get football back, support for golf and fishing, but a lack of recognition that individual pilates studios can operate in a safe socially-distanced way, rigorously cleaned between clients?

“Barbers have been allowed to return from July 4 because guess what – men with hair need it cut [all barbers and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen on Saturday]. They tend not to think of a pedicure before they brave a pair of sandals, although perhaps the world would be a better place if they did. Dare I say the great gender divide is writ large through all this?”

Boris Johnson and Caroline Nokes during the liaison committee meeting last month. (Parliamentlive.tv)
Boris Johnson and Caroline Nokes during the liaison committee meeting last month. (Parliamentlive.tv)

When Johnson appeared before the House of Commons liaison committee last month, Nokes criticised the PM for not involving more women during Downing Street’s response to the outbreak.

Johnson responded: “It’s incredibly important to us as Conservatives. Fifty per cent [of women in government] would be great. We have large numbers of female MPs of great talent including yourself in the House of Commons.

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

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