Boris purges women from City Hall?

// 13 July 2008

The Evening Standard reports that five top women in City Hall have been ousted since Boris Johnson won the election, and the position of women’s advisor scrapped.

Challenged on this, Boris’ ‘chief of staff’ Tim Parker implied that women are just not good enough to fill the top jobs:

He said that it was easier to appoint women to posts for which few qualifications were needed but said that as jobs became more important it was difficult to find suitable candidates.

Mr Parker said: “When you go down the pyramid of an organisation you find many more posts that are open to a broader market and it’s much easier there to be more equal, as it were.

“The narrower you get it’s tougher and tougher and sometimes you will get a situation where there are more people leaving or more people from one group or another.”

“From one group or another”?! Who does he think he’s kidding – it’s not a randomly selected demographic that happens to float to the top of the pile, it’s the same old boy’s club.

Comments From You

Torygirl // Posted 13 July 2008 at 9:39 pm

Well there are two factors at work, there. One is the effect of childbearing on women’s careers (to be fair, I know many women who are surprised that they place less importance on career progression when they have kids). The other *MAY* be that they just don’t have good enough candidates but basically Tories tend to love a bit of misogyny.

F T P Topcliff // Posted 13 July 2008 at 11:14 pm

The problem with this analysis is threefold:

1. It was widely reported at the time that the women concerned were political appointments, linked to the Livingstone-supporting trotsyist group called Socialist Action. It would ridiculous to suggest that a party taking over an administration should continue with any political appointments made by its rivals – even if we were not talking about Conservatives continuing to employ people linked to a communist organisation as is the case here.

2. One of the women is Livingstone’s current partner and mother of 2 of his 5 children, who was employed on a salary of £96,000 and whose qualifications amount to 1 CSE. Livingstone has a reputation for concurrent relationships and it is unclear whether he has never had a relationship with any of the other women involved.

3. The day when any other serious party has a woman leader for 14 years as the Conservatives 33 years ago is the day when they can begin to be criticised for the number of women they put into office.

Sarah // Posted 14 July 2008 at 9:34 am

“3. The day when any other serious party has a woman leader for 14 years as the Conservatives 33 years ago is the day when they can begin to be criticised for the number of women they put into office.”

Your other two points may be fair (I don’t know enough about the situation to comment) but this one is obviously nonsense. I would love to see a woman as leader of one of the other major political parties, or a woman as Prime Minister again, but to suggest that no criticism of any misogyny by any member of the Tory party should be possible until this happens is absurd. I would also point out that ‘number of women they put in office’ is a very different thing from ‘whether they’ve ever had a woman as leader’ and I suspect you’re being a bit dishonest in conflating the two. Finally, we’re not talking about women ‘in office’ here, if by that you mean political representatives, but women in administrative and operational roles.

Torygirl // Posted 14 July 2008 at 9:58 am

Well, come on. Thatcher was basically pretty misogynist. How many women did she promote appropriately???

And further, it’s hardly difficult to understand that qualifications do not necessarily equal intelligence or competance.

There are a lot of people in highly paid jobs with few formal qualifications. and suggesting that Ken appointed particular people through nepotism is a pretty poor way to excuse Boris’s OWN nepotism.

Carrie // Posted 14 July 2008 at 10:13 am

“it is unclear whether he has never had a relationship with any of the other women involved”

Or to put it another way, it is unclear if he has ever had a relationship with any of the other women involved.

Lindsey Spilman // Posted 14 July 2008 at 11:29 am

If the Tory’s get back in at the next election then they may chip away more and more at women’s rights. It is possible that everyone’s focus on the current state of the economy will allow it to go unnoticed by many until it is too late. Also things like political correctness could result in many not questioning it. Strategies like promoting anti-feminist women to fool everyone into thinking they are not sexist as there are women there, many may find it difficult to accuse a woman of being sexist. Putting in place welfare reforms that will affect women more then men, like giving credits to stay at home mothers. Even new education programs sold to the public as a way of managing young people could be laced with old school gender roles, i.e. gender based courses teaching kids the skills they need to get a traditional job, and reintroducing traditional dress as a way of smartening up the youth.

The bush administration in America started to chip away at women’s rights as soon as they got in. They focused on reproductive rights issues and on funding Christian groups that promote the family and abstaince. They got elected because so many wanted a change.

New labour is being blamed by many for the failings of the economy. They are also been blamed for the increase in youth crime. People want a change now more then ever. Could this lead to a more right wing version of the conservative party getting elected here?

Spicy // Posted 14 July 2008 at 12:16 pm

2. One of the women is Livingstone’s current partner and mother of 2 of his 5 children, who was employed on a salary of £96,000 and whose qualifications amount to 1 CSE. Livingstone has a reputation for concurrent relationships and it is unclear whether he has never had a relationship with any of the other women involved.

Nice attempt at a smear but wholly wrong.

Emma was in the job before she became Ken’s partner and it was not a political appointment. Of the other women ‘purged’, two were not politacal appointments. None of the women except Emma has ever had a realtionship with Ken.

Amy // Posted 14 July 2008 at 1:44 pm

Regardless of whether or not those five women were sacked because of their gender or their politics, BJ’s misogyny is still shown loud and clear by his scrapping of the women’s advisor post. He could have filled it with anyone he wanted, so why scrap it? Because he thinks women’s rights and issues aren’t important. And if those women *were* sacked because of their politics, why the misogynist comments from Tim Parker, saying that it was easier to employ women where not as many qualificatons were needed, etc? Why didn’t he just say that they were, ahem, “communists” and that’s why they were sacked? Oh no, because *that* would’ve made him look like an idiot…

And it’s funny that BJ doesn’t seem to mind being told what to do by the BNP assembly member (see the blog post on the Rise festival not being allowed to call itself ‘anti-racist’ any more), it’s just women and left-wingers that he can’t stomach.

Marina // Posted 14 July 2008 at 2:04 pm

Torygirl, you don’t think that caring for kids is burden for males too? I would imagine that if I was to have child right now, half of childcare work added to full time job and half of the home choirs that my husband already does would affect him quite drastically. For sure he would have even less energy to put in his career.

Torygirl // Posted 14 July 2008 at 8:01 pm

Marina, I absolutely agree that’s how it *should* be, but the reality of it is that parenthood affects men and women differently, and in terms of career, women bear the brunt quite dramatically. This is a tangent but as a mother according to popular culture you can’t win. Stay at home and you should be contributing more to society (through paid work), get a job and your kids suffer from not being at home with your wholesome, bread-baking self.

It also dramatically overlooks the fact that statistically (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again) many men abandon their children (it happened to me) and really it is not difficult to slip through the CSA net if the CSA manage to actually make contact… I read somewhere that men are more likely to meet their car payments than child maintenance obligations.

And replying to Lindsay Spilman, women’s rights in the USA started being chipped away at by the Reagan administration. None of the current debates are new, which is what I find most unsettling about the current climate. Many women, especially young women, take a lot of things for granted without realising how much effort it’s taken to get this far and how potentially fragile even statutory rights are.

Sarah // Posted 14 July 2008 at 8:10 pm

Marina, I’m sure that’s true in your case, and I hope that if I had a baby my partner and I would share the work and responsibility equally as well. But that’s not the case for every couple, and surveys show that on average in a heterosexual couple with children, the woman does the majority of the childcare and the household chores, even when both partners are working full-time.

I’m not suggesting that becoming a father has no effect on a man (assuming he’s there!), but the burden is generally greater for women.

F T P Topcliff // Posted 15 July 2008 at 10:55 am

Not true about Livingstone’s partner. She worked for Northcliff newspapers before, which is where he met her while he wrote a restaurant review column for the Standard.

And how exactly could she have been working there before? There WASN’T a City Hall before Livingstione was elected mayor!

Jess McCabe // Posted 15 July 2008 at 11:55 am

I don’t know enough about the inner workings of City Hall to say whether this is true or not. However, as far as I am concerned it’s basically irrelevant to the present situation – the fact of the matter is that the current mayor fired lots of women and, whatever the reasons behind that – although I’m extremely suspicious of the implication that all these women were somehow sexually involved with Ken, that sounds like a smear and a dismissal of their abilities to me, his hiring pracitices speak for themselves. Even though he has (currently) four deputy mayors, none of them are women. His chief of staff implies there are no women qualified for the top jobs in City Hall.

And, as alluded to, he has scrapped the role of women’s advisor – surely it’s as clear as day what Mr Johnson’s position is – as I said, it seems like City Hall is now a boy’s club.

Lorna // Posted 15 July 2008 at 12:40 pm

F T P Topcliff:

Spicy did not state that Emma was in the job before Ken was apointed but that she was in the job before their relationship began.

Unfortuately I don’t know if any of this is true, but to suggest that any of the other women are having a relationship with Ken without any reason to believe this is disgusting. Maybe you should ask yourslef if you would be doing the same if they were men? I suspect you wouldn’t.

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