I was told my body parts got me the job, says female former minister


A Conservative former minister has said she was told soon after being appointed to the role that she had “only been given that job because of certain body parts” she had.

Caroline Nokes, chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee, said: “I can remember being told when I was a very new minister that I’d only been given that job because of certain body parts that I had – and that’s what people were saying to my face.

“Who knows what they were saying behind my back.”

Ms Nokes, who was made a junior minister in the Department for Work and Pensions in 2016 by then prime minister Theresa May and was later made immigration minister, did not identify the person who made the comments to her.

She told GB News that Westminster had a culture that was “belittling and demeaning” towards women, who faced some “really outdated and frankly unpleasant attitudes”.

A string of examples of misogyny and sexual harassment in parliament have thrown a spotlight on the behaviour and views of male MPs.

At the last election, several women MPs who stood down said the toxic environment and regular abuse they received was a factor in their decision.

And last month, male Tories were accused of stirring sexism by accusing Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner of crossing and uncrossing her legs in the chamber to distract Boris Johnson.

Soon afterwards, another Conservative was found to have watched pornography in parliament. Neil Parish quit after two female colleagues reported him to party whips.

At the same time, cabinet minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said a male MP once pinned her against a wall, saying she had been touched inappropriately around half a dozen times. Female MPs were still subjected to “wandering hands” and other forms of abuse, she claimed.

Ms Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, is among those in the party’s ranks calling for an all-women shortlist in the future Tiverton and Honiton by-election to elect Mr Parish’s successor.

(PA Media)

Advocating for “safe seats” for female candidates when they are vacated in future, she said: “I think anybody in politics is quite assertive. They’re quite outspoken, they hold strong views.

“What we see in Westminster, though, and what I’ve witnessed over the course of the last 12 years since I’ve been an MP, is what I would describe as the deliberate belittling and demeaning of women MPs, a culture which fosters a lack of respect.

“And we have to get away from the sort of male-dominated culture. I desperately want us to get to the position where we see more women in parliament.

“I’d love it to be 50-50, but it’s taking too long to get there and in the meantime, we’re still having to contend with some really outdated and frankly unpleasant attitudes.

“And in the meantime, we’re still having to contend with some really outdated and frankly unpleasant attitudes,” she said.


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