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Boris Johnson Claims He's A Feminist As No.10 Hints More Women Will Be Appointed To Cabinet Within "Months"

Boris Johnson Claims He's A Feminist As No.10 Hints More Women Will Be Appointed To Cabinet Within 'Months'
3 min read

Senior Downing Street staff have said a Cabinet reshuffle could take place soon and would include more women members, months after Boris Johnson told female MPs he was a feminist.

The prime minister has just five women in his Cabinet, down from seven when he was first elected leader of the party in July 2019. 

Anne Marie-Trevelyan, who was international development secretary, lost her job in Cabinet when the department was axed last autumn, and was appointed a business minister in January. Andrea Leadsom and Theresa Villiers have also left his Cabinet in the last 12 months. 

In a briefing on Monday, Johnson's press secretary Allegra Stratton appeared to admit the the imbalance at the top of govenment. "In the months and years ahead, as he perhaps rearranges his top team, he will be mindful of making sure that Cabinet looks like the British public," she said. 

The Prime Minister hosted an event with senior female business leaders this morning for International Women's Day, drawing fresh attention to his own record of hiring women ministers.

Stratton said Johnson was aware that he needed to improve how many women sit at the top table of government.

Currently Home Secretary Priti Patel, Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey and Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade are the only heads of Whitehall departments. Party chair Amanda Milling and Baroness Evans, leader of the House of Lords, also attend Cabient. 

"We know that there is improvements to come in the years head when we have promotions to Cabinet," Stratton continued.

"He's aware he would like to improve how represenative his Cabinet is of the population at large."

While Stratton initially dismissed speculation of a Cabinet reshuffle, she later added there could be changes within months. 

She also revealed that Johnson described himself as a feminist to women MPs on a call last autumn. 

Johnson made about a number of remarks about women before he became Prime Minister that that have not been interpreted as being supportive and empowering to women, or especially feminist. 

As a journalist in 1996 he wrote that the "tottymeter" was going off at Labour party conference as women delegates walked onto the stage to give their speeches. He said women joined the party because they were naturally fickle. 

Johnson also called the children of single mothers ill-raised and ignorant in an article in The Spectator.

In 2013 when he was mayor of London he joked that the increase in women attending universities in Malaysia was so they could find men to marry.

Asked if Johnson regretted demoting women in the Cabinet, Stratton said: "The Prime Minister has a great number of female advisers in Number 10 but also women in government, at all levels of government.

"You heard Vicky Ford on the radio this morning – the minister for children –- you've got Helen Whately, minister for social care."

"We've got a great number of talented women in his government. 

No prime minister has ever had more than eight women in Cabinet as full members.

Theresa May had eight women in Cabinet, including her own position when she was prime minister. She also had several more junior ministers attending.

Tony Blair also briefly had eight women in Cabinet between 2006 and 2007, though started with just four in 1997.

David Cameron had seven, John Major had two, and Margaret Thatcher famously only had one woman in the her Cabinet for two years in the early 1980s. 

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The Women in Westminster: The 100 list for 2021 has now been released. Click below to see who made this year's list.

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