The Conservative Party has become “very laddish” under Boris Johnson’s leadership, a former minister for women has said.
Speaking in the wake of MP Neil Parish’s suspension from the party for watching porn in the Commons chamber, Anne Milton said she was “angry” that those at the top of the party had failed to lead by example by showing high standards of behaviour, including over the Partygate scandal.
Ms Milton, who served in the governments of David Cameron and Theresa May, but was stripped of the Tory whip by Johnson for refusing to vote for a no-deal Brexit and lost her Guildford seat after 14 years standing as an independent in 2019, said women had been given a less prominent role under the current leader.
Asked if there was a culture of sexism in the Tory Party, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s over two years since I left politics and it feels like it’s got worse. It feels it’s very laddish.
“You don’t see women being put up for the press conferences or doing the media round. There’s a lot of people running around with high-vis jackets and making allusions to rugby scrum.
“So it feels very laddish.”
Ms Milton, who was Tory deputy chief whip from 2015-17, made clear that she believes Mr Johnson’s example – including his fine for breaching Covid lockdown laws – had set the tone for his MPs’ behaviour .
“I think what’s more important than anything else at the moment – and I actually feel quite angry about this – is everybody in leadership positions should demonstrate by example high standards of behavior,” she said.
“You need to constantly remind people that you expect those standards of behavior at all times. It is really shocking and depressing what we’ve been hearing over the last few weeks.”