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A Man’s World: Special Advisor Jobs in Whitehall Dominated by Men

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/05/2022 - 6:00pm in

Byline Intelligence Team analysis puts Westminster’s gender imbalances into context

Nearly two-thirds of special advisors to UK ministers are men, according to analysis by the Byline Intelligence Team.

Only 42 of 114 special advisor positions are currently held by women, including two advisers on maternity leave, according to data collected by the right-wing political blog Guido Fawkes

Special advisors – known in Whitehall as ‘SPADs’ – are personally appointed by Cabinet ministers to provide party political advice and support. 

A total of six Cabinet ministers have all-male teams of SPADs, typically consisting of between two and five advisors.

They are: Housing, Local Government and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove; Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi; Transport Secretary Grant Shapps; Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries; Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack; and Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Gove has been a Cabinet minister since 2010 – aside from a brief 11-month stint on the backbenches under former Prime Minister Theresa May. There have only been two years in that period when he has not appointed an all-male team of SPADs, according to official Government documents.  

More than two-thirds of Downing Street special advisors are men and Boris Johnson’s two most senior SPADs – his chief and deputy chief of staff – are men. However, this is a marked improvement from the May years: the proportion of female Downing Street advisors has doubled under Johnson and the number of women SPADs has increased from 25% to 36%.

However, as the Byline Intelligence Team previously revealed, that top male SPADs are paid 22% more than their female counterparts. 

The story of female under-representation is not limited to special advisors in Westminster. Johnson may have promised a Government “that has a large number of female ministers” and said that “we believe women should be secretaries – secretaries of state” – but only 27% of those currently attending Cabinet are women. 

Despite female representation in Parliament being at record levels, only a third of MPs are women, with the UK ranking 38th in the world for gender parity. Studies show that having more women in Parliament leads to better policy outcomes for women, suggesting that more female ministerial advisors would have the same effect.

"Westminster needs more women,” the Fawcett Society's Andrew Bazeley told Byline Times. “We’ve seen stark examples of that lately. The issues that get discussed, how it is reported on and the laws that get passed – all of these are skewed towards sexism because women are missing.”

At a time when women are “brutally exposed” to the cost of living crisis, shouldn’t representation amongst SPADs be levelled up?

Diversity ‘Drivel’

It is little wonder that most ministerial advisors are men: the current Government has failed to prioritise boosting gender parity by recruiting more female SPADs, as demonstrated by a rambling 2020 blog-post-come-job-advertisement written by Boris Johnson’s then chief aide, Dominic Cummings. 

Under the sub-heading ‘Super-talented weirdos’, Cummings wrote: “People in SW1 talk a lot about ‘diversity’ but they rarely mean ‘true cognitive diversity’. They are usually babbling about ‘gender identity diversity blah blah’.”

Cummings went on to complain about the “drivel about ‘identity’ and ‘diversity’” already present in Westminster. 

The lack of diversity in Westminster follows a decade of women feeling the sharp end of Government policy and helps to explain why, so often, women can feel like an afterthought.

Austerity measures implemented by the Conservative-led governments since 2010 disproportionately impacted women, with 86% of the cuts coming out of women’s purses.

Responding to the needs of women giving birth, and the safety of domestic abuse, were also late to the table during the early months of the Coronavirus crisis – as was an in-depth understanding of the risks to a mostly-female frontline workforce in health and social care. Even transport policy tends to favour a male default of car drivers on roads. Buses, which are more likely to be used by women, are often last on the priority list. 

While successive Conservative governments have pledged to achieve gender parity, their words – or, as Cummings so eloquently puts it, “drivel” – have not translated into reality.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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The Involuntary Misandrist

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/05/2022 - 2:29am in

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Feminism

It is perfectly fine to complain about misogyny and to not let anyone make you feel bad about it.

Did the Democrats Fuck It Up?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/05/2022 - 12:28am in

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Feminism


To a remarkable degree, party elites have sorted on abortion. When the House voted on the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021, codifying the right to abortion prior to viability and thereafter if “continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health,” every Democrat but one was in favor, and every single Republican was opposed. The result was the same in the Senate, where a vote to advance the bill failed 49-51. The one Democrat who voted no in the House, the corrupt but loyal Henry Cuellar of Texas, faces a runoff challenger to his left, Jessica Cisneros, backed by national groups like Justice Democrats. It is a proxy fight about House Democratic leadership generally, as those leaders have been for decades happy to back members who don’t ruffle feathers in Washington and whom they deem good fits for their districts, but in terms of abortion politics, it’s a sideshow.

Breaking Through for LGBTQI Rights

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/05/2022 - 6:04am in

We have to understand that the ones who are in these spaces are the ones who can create change, be it positive or negative....

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Anarchafeminism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 16/05/2022 - 10:00pm in

The more we searched for the “anarchafeminist tradition,” and the more we tried to identify the “anarchafeminist canon,” the less interested we were in it. While researching for this book, it became clear that the concept of an “anarchafeminist tradition,” let alone that of an “anarchafeminist canon,” is fraught with internal tensions, if not with an outright contradiction....

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Two weeks now

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/05/2022 - 8:16am in

Two weeks now until General Election day and the current Tory Prime Minister and his party have a serious “woman problem”; that kind of male chauvinism alone could be enough to vote the bastards out. Newtown.

Pestminster and the Shaming of Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 9:00pm in

With reports that 56 MPs are facing allegations of sexual misconduct, Rachel Morris analyses how a Bullingdon Club mentality has seeped into the corridors of power

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In 1994, Conservative MP Stephen Milligan was found dead in his home, naked aside from stockings and suspenders, with orange segments in his mouth. Many other scandals of the early 1990s stood in stark contrast to the then Prime Minister John Major’s ‘Back to Basics’ political campaigning.

Affairs, homes for votes, cash for questions: Westminster has always been scandalous; its members prone to the same deadly sins as everyone else – though with greater access to opportunities. The rank hypocrisy of parliamentarians behaving in this manner while passing laws preventing everyone else from doing the same has always been offensive.

But what has happened in Parliament recently is of a different order. As the Government passes increasingly authoritarian laws, the behaviour of its members sinks ever lower.

While the misdeeds of the past mostly harmed those directly involved, current standards of behaviour harm the country and democracy itself. The Commons is not only a moral cesspit but a hostile work environment, especially for women. There are not enough column inches to list all offences by MPs against decency and, in some cases, the breaking of laws written in that very chamber.

Last July, the Commons Standards Committee found that five Conservative MPs had breached the Code of Conduct by attempting to improperly influence judicial proceedings in the trial of former Tory MP Charlie Elphicke, via letters on headed House of Commons notepaper. Elphicke lost his seat and was imprisoned for the sexual assault of two members of his staff. His Dover constituency went to his wife Natalie, one of the five MPs in question.

In December, drug detection wipes found cocaine traces in 11 of 12 parliamentary bathrooms, including one next to the Prime Minister’s office, all accessible only by those with parliamentary passes. This while Boris Johnson cosplayed as a policeman as part of his ‘war on drugs’. Although the Speaker of the Commons referred this matter to police, nothing more has been reported on it.

And this April alone, there have been a series of new scandals:

MP David Warburton was pictured with lines of cocaine, and was alleged to have sexually assaulted staffers who could not complain directly to their tax-funded HR representative as she is also Warburton’s wife. Warburton received an undeclared £150,000 loan from Russian ‘financial advisor’ Roman Joukovski, to whom Warburton gave parliamentary access. He used his parliamentary email to organise meetings for Joukovski. Weeks on, there is no word of a police investigation, nor a by-election. Warburton had the Conservative whip withdrawn.

Imran Ahmad Khan MP was found guilty of molesting a teenage boy. It emerged that he gave a statement under caution in May 2020 yet was allowed to advise the Government on child sexual exploitation and grooming gangs later that year. Tory MP Crispin Blunt offered a passionate defence of Khan, before withdrawing it. Khan's victim contacted the Conservative Party press office to inform it of his abuse in 2019. Khan had the Conservative whip withdrawn.

56 MPs face allegations of sexual misconduct, including three serving Cabinet members and two Labour shadow ministers. These include sexually inappropriate comments and more serious incidents, including one MP said to have bribed a staff member for sexual favours. This is equivalent to 8-9% of Parliament's 650 MPs.

Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner suffered a scurrilous attack by the Mail on Sunday, briefed by someone in the Government, accusing her of using underhand sexual distractions at Prime Minister’s Questions. Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, described the article as “demeaning” and “offensive” and ordered the newspaper’s editor to attend Parliament for discussion. David Dillon refused to do so.

An unidentified Conservative MP was said to have watched pornography on his phone while the House of Commons was in session. At the meeting where this was revealed, female Conservative MPs also reported such incidents as a whip calling, “come on, girls!” as he ushered them to vote, and an MP wearing a skirt being asked, “what do you do for your day job?”

The Bullingdon Mentality

Perhaps none of this is surprising when Parliament has long been nicknamed ‘Pestminster’. An eponymous scandal in 2018 saw a flood of #MeToo sexual harassment accusations. Aside from Charlie Elphicke’s jailing, at least four ministers lost their jobs.

A culture of endemic bullying and harassment in Westminster was confirmed by three independent inquiries, finding a systematic problem buttressed by complaints processes relying on other parliamentarians to apply discipline. Party machinery was known to sit on complaints.

An independent complaints and grievance scheme, training, and helplines were introduced. But, in 2020, when an unnamed Conservative MP was arrested on allegations of rape, violent sexual assault, and coercive control of an aide, union representatives found that action taken “went nowhere near addressing our concerns”.

The Westminster Old Boy’s Club still has a bustling membership. It creates and oversees laws that aim to achieve safe, fair workplaces, amid its own hostile work environment. Commons employees, such as aides and researchers, are represented by trade unions, but if they work in MPs’ offices, their first port of call for complaints is still often the MP.

MPs are not employees of the House – they are paid by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which states: “Obviously there are things MPs are not allowed to do and standards by which they should abide – there is a Code of Conduct and the behaviour of Members is monitored by the Commissioner for Standards.”

As is often the case in British politics, these rules are advisory and they ultimately lie for their enforcement with the Prime Minister – a man who, when running for Parliament in 2005, said, “voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts”.

Research finds that sexist and condescending language impacts gender-based achievement and parity in workplaces, affecting whether women remain in their jobs, aim for leadership roles, or are seen as competent. A known culture of harassment in a workplace will put women off from entering it.

Moreover, the police force which investigates more serious allegations emerging from Parliament itself has an endemic culture of racism and misogyny.

The Pleasure Palace stands in stark contrast to the simple pleasures denied many citizens who can no longer afford them. On the day that news broke about the Conservative MP watching porn in the seat of power, the Trussell Trust announced that its food banks gave out 2.1 million food parcels in the past year – 830,000 to children.

On the same day, the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill went forward for Royal Assent, containing provisions to criminalise the way of life of Gypsies and Travellers and making noisy protests unlawful. The Elections Bill too, introducing voter suppression measures and ending the independence of the Electoral Commission. And the Nationality and Borders Bill, undermining international refugee protection laws and exposing vulnerable people to suffering and danger.

We have become a rogue state. The soul of our democracy has become the Bullingdon Club – the Oxford University society famed for its debauchery. As with ‘Partygate’, there seems to be different rules for the Government and the governed.

Criminology's ‘broken windows theory’ suggests that visible signs of antisocial behaviour, disorder and crime lead to an environment encouraging more serious crime and disorder. If a neighbourhood behaved akin to the Commons, particularly the Tory cul-de-sac, the police would set up a task force.

In 1994, as the then News of the World editor Piers Morgan said: “It strikes me that probably every Tory MP is up to some sexual shenanigans, but we can hardly get them all fired or there will be nobody left to run the country.”

Calling abuse and harassment “shenanigans” demonstrates a lack of seriousness. The suggested solution to widespread degeneracy of firing everyone and starting over is hardly practical. But, 28 years later, it’s beginning to sound reasonable to overhaul every aspect of the way Westminster operates.

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How Boris Johnson has Spread and Benefitted From Deeply Sexist Attitudes in Politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 8:57pm in

The Prime Minister has pushed sexist tropes about women – while being given a free pass by those parts of the press which also trade in them, reports Adam Bienkov

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“There can be absolutely no place” for misogyny in politics, Boris Johnson told the House of Commons earlier this week, following the publication of a sexist story about Labour's Deputy Leader Angela Rayner.

He later described the claims, which had been briefed by Conservative MPs to the Mail on Sunday, as “the most appalling load of sexist, misogynist tripe”.

However, the Prime Minister's sudden opposition to misogyny in politics will surprise anyone who has closely followed his career.

In fact, far from opposing sexism in politics, Johnson has been one of its chief proponents.

As both a politician and a journalist, the Prime Minister has a long record of deeply sexist comments and actions.

'Hot Totty'

In 1996, Boris Johnson wrote a bizarre article for the Telegraph in which he reviewed the quality of "the hot totty" he had observed at the Labour Party Conference.

"The unanimous opinion is that what has been called the 'Tottymeter' reading is higher than at any Labour Party Conference in living memory," he told his readers. "Time and again the 'Tottymeter' has gone off as a young woman delegate mounts the rostrum."

He suggested that such "totty" was attracted to the Labour Party because of the "fickleness" of their sex.

"The real reason why Blackpool is buzzing with glamorous women is surely that they scent victory," he wrote. "It is not the great smell of Brut that makes John Prescott attractive. It is the whiff of power. With the fickleness of their sex, they are following the polls."

Johnson also brought his admiration for "hot totty" into his own workplace, once writing for the Telegraph about the time he pinned a calendar of naked women to his desk, despite complaints from female colleagues. He boasted that the calendar "caused something of a stir” due to the fact that the pictures “made women feel embarrassed".

Johnson’s other writing often betrayed a deeply sexist view of women, according to his biographer Sonia Purnell.

In her book, Just Boris, she notes that throughout his writing women were "portrayed as rather feeble 'blubbing blondes' or 'collapsing with emotion".

His writing was often deeply sexualised. As his other biographer Andrew Gimson noted: “Boris’s writing is suffused with sexual imagery. He sees sex almost everywhere."

This is particularly notable in his GQ columns, in which he reviewed his favourite "babe magnet" cars.

As Purnell notes: "The reviews relied on words such as 'filly', 'chicks' and 'flapping kimonos' and were garnished with plenty of 'gearstick' gags... There is talk of blonde drivers 'waggling their rumps,' his own superior horsepower 'taking them from behind,' aided by tantalising thoughts of the imaginary 'ample bosoms' of the female sat nav voice.

"On driving a Ferrari F340, he wrote: 'it was as though the whole county of Hampshire was lying back and opening her well-bred legs to be ravished by the Italian stallion'."

Such attitudes spilled over into his political career.

In 2005, while campaigning to become the Conservative MP for Henley, he told voters that "voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts".

And in 2012, while hosting the London Olympics as Mayor, Johnson told his readers of the "magnificent" experience of watching "semi-naked women playing beach volleyball... glistening like wet otters".

When hosting the World Islamic Forum in London, he suggested that women in Malaysia only went to university "to find men to marry".

Johnson was Accused of Assaulting Women

These attitudes towards women allegedly sometimes spilled out into his own behaviour.

In 2019, The Sunday Times journalist Charlotte Edwardes alleged that Boris Johnson once groped her and another woman during a lunch hosted by the Spectator magazine, of which he was then editor.

Johnson’s spokesman dismissed the claims. However, his former colleague and friend Toby Young defended Johnson’s alleged actions, saying that “at the Spectator, in those raucous days, people complained if Boris didn't put his hand on their knee".

Indeed, Johnson has previously been open about such behaviour. In a farewell piece in the Spectator marking his exit as editor, Johnson offered the following advice to his successor: "Once the fire is going well, you may find your eyes drifting to the lovely striped chesterfield across the room. Is it the right size, you wonder, for a snooze... You come round in a panic, to find a lustrous pair of black eyes staring down at you. Relax. It's only Kimberly [Quinn, who was then the Spectator's publisher] with some helpful suggestions for boosting circulation."

He advised his successor to "just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way".

Johnson Talks to Women 'Like They're Idiots'

The Prime Minister's claimed outrage over the Rayner story has not been believed by everyone who knows the Prime Minister.

One of his former close colleagues told Byline Times that they were unconvinced by Downing Street's denials about the story.

"I'm convinced that the Rayner story will have come from him, or his allies," they said. "It just sounds exactly like the sort of thing he would say."

Downing Street has strongly denied this. However, the Mail on Sunday's central claim, that Johnson was distracted by Rayner's legs in the chamber, is not surprising to some of his former colleagues.

In a piece written last year, Johnson's former chief advisor Dominic Cummings wrote that "as one woman who knows Boris extremely well and has worked very closely with him said to me last year, ‘he can’t take women seriously, he can’t help staring at tits and talking like we’re idiots’".

This attitude was noticed by female members of the London Assembly while he was Mayor.

In 2012, a cross-party group of female politicians wrote a letter to Johnson accusing him of being "disrespectful and patronising" towards them in the chamber. In his reply, Johnson dismissed the claims, saying that "I have not been more robust towards female rather than male assembly members and I do not believe I have been remotely sexist".

However, such allegations have continued to dog him. Despite appointing a handful of women, like Priti Patel and Liz Truss to senior positions in his Government, his Cabinet still remains overwhelmingly filled by men.

One of his last remaining senior female advisors, Munira Mirza, walked out of the Government last year. His former press secretary Allegra Stratton also stood down, with Johnson saying that he was furious about footage of her joking about lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

Allies of his predecessor Theresa May suggest that she also remains unhappy with Johnson's treatment of her. When a story about May wearing leather trousers was splashed across newspaper front pages in 2016, Johnson joined in with the barbs against his leader, joking that “our wonderful PM actually wears lederhosen”.

The former Conservative Home Secretary Amber Rudd later said there had been a "whiff of sexism" about how May had been ousted by Johnson's supporters.

Labour Party Deputy Leader Angela Rayner. Photo: PjrNews/Alamy Sexist Media Attitudes Give Johnson A Pass

Whatever the source of the Angela Rayner story, it is undoubtedly the case that Johnson has been treated very differently by the press than if he were a woman.

Imagine for a moment that another prominent politician, who happened to be a woman, was found to have had multiple affairs with other men while married.

Imagine that this same politician secretly had children with these other men, and then refused to ever publicly state how many children she had.

Imagine also that the identity of one of these children was later uncovered in a court case, due to lawyers arguing that revealing it was important to highlighting their "reckless" behaviour.

Imagine that one of these men was also found to have benefited from public money provided to them following the start of their relationship with that woman.

Imagine again that, after all of this became public knowledge, this female politician then left her husband, who was ill at the time, for a man who was 24 years her junior.

It is impossible to imagine that these stories would have then been shaken off by certain newspapers which then championed her to become leader of their party, and prime minister.

Now compare this scenario to how Angela Rayner has been treated for the crime of being a working class woman who occasionally wears a skirt.

Because the truth is that Boris Johnson is not only a purveyor of deeply sexist attitudes in politics – he is also one of the leading beneficiaries of them too.

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“It’s Not So Easy to Break Us, Despite Everything”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2022 - 5:52am in


We knew that the transcripts of our hearings would be broadcast. Even though no one listens to you in the courtroom, you can address invisible listeners who will read about it later in the media. And so to demonstrate the full absurdity of the Russian courts we set up what we called a “word auction”: we invited our readers to contribute words, any words, along with a monetary donation. We then went ahead and wove them into our speeches—we put the speeches together using the words people sent in. So the speeches ended up pretty absurdist, but we managed to express some of our ideas at the same time. I remember that there were a lot of really wacky and exotic animals, so we would say, like, “we’ve been sitting under house arrest for a long time now, we aren’t able to admire these wonderful animals.” Someone sent in the phrase “bee extinction,” so my colleague Volodya [Vladimir Metyolkin] gave a whole speech about the problem of bees going extinct due to climate change, and how in our country journalists are just as important as bees, and their extinction is just as dangerous for the environment as the bees.

Not a Labor of Love

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/03/2022 - 1:00am in

t was argued that domestic work doesn’t produce any social wealth, is a backward activity, and that it isn’t really part of the capitalist organization of work and, therefore, women who are mostly involved with this kind of work do not have the power to change society....

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