Aide linked to Boris to chair de­bate on abuse of women in pol­i­tics

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By Glen Owen

THE for­mer Tory aide who has been ro­man­ti­cally linked to Boris John­son is due to make a star turn at the Con­ser­va­tive party con­fer­ence at the end of this month, speak­ing about the ‘abuse’ which de­ters women from pur­su­ing po­lit­i­cal ca­reers.

Car­rie Sy­monds, 30, who grew close to Mr John­son in the months be­fore his mar­riage split, is sched­uled to host a fringe event on the short­age of woman MPs – on the same day the for­mer UK for­eign sec­re­tary is due to ad­dress a rally seek­ing to dump Theresa May’s Che­quers proposal on Brexit.

For­mer Con­ser­va­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Ms Sy­monds, who has re­fused to dis­cuss her friend­ship with Mr John­son, is due to chair an event by the Cen­tre For Pol­icy Stud­ies think-tank ti­tled: ‘What’s stop­ping women from step­ping up?’

The panel, which in­cludes UK women’s min­is­ter Vic­to­ria Atkins, will dis­cuss why four out of five Tory MPs are male, framed by the ques­tion: ‘Are women de­terred by the abuse, the process or do they just need to be asked?’

It comes af­ter fe­male MPs, ex-spe­cial ad­vis­ers and jour­nal­ists banded to­gether to sign an open let­ter crit­i­cis­ing the me­dia’s ‘misog­y­nis­tic’ treat­ment of Ms Sy­monds in the wake of Mr John­son’s sep­a­ra­tion.

The 80 sig­na­to­ries ar­gued that the way she had been treated was ‘ap­palling’ and ‘must never hap­pen again’.

It read: ‘Be­ing a woman in pol­i­tics isn’t easy, and each of us has had to over­come a lot to get to where we are… We are of­ten treated in a way that men wouldn’t be, and this de­ba­cle is only the lat­est ex­am­ple of a po­lit­i­cal and me­dia cul­ture still steeped in misog­yny.’

The furore has forced Ms Sy­monds to de­lay tak­ing up her new po­si­tion with Bloomberg Phi­lan­thropies, the char­i­ta­ble arm of the fi­nan­cial tech gi­ant, which she had been due to start last week.

Yes­ter­day, an­other woman who has been linked to Mr John­son of­fered Ms Sy­monds her sup­port. Anna Faza­ck­er­ley, who was re­ported to have had an af­fair with him 12 years ago, said: ‘Like Sy­monds and all the other women who wish they weren’t star­ring in this pa­thetic me­dia cir­cus, I am far more than the hol­low, blonde hon­ey­pot car­i­ca­ture that has been as­signed to me. I have worked hard to es­tab­lish my ca­reer and I’m good at what I do.

‘I have a first-class de­gree – though I wish I didn’t feel the need to tell you that. I go to meet­ings with se­ri­ous peo­ple, and stand in a crowded play­ground wait­ing for my kids.

‘In both of those sce­nar­ios I wish I didn’t have to won­der whether any­one was judg­ing me based on some­thing they’d read about me.

‘Be­ing in the eye of my own me­dia storm was a painful and desta­bil­is­ing thing. I de­cided then that the best pol­icy was to keep my head down, try not to read any­thing on the in­ter­net, and wait for it to blow over. ‘I have never dig­ni­fied the many sto­ries about me with any re­sponse at all. But 12 years on I feel enough is enough. If women like me don’t speak out, misog­yny wins.

‘I don’t know Car­rie Sy­monds. But rather than hid­ing out hop­ing no one will no­tice me, I stand be­side her.’

Her in­ter­ven­tion came as Guto Harri – Mr John­son’s di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions when he was mayor of London – said that his ex-boss was a di­vi­sive fig­ure who could never now be Bri­tish PM.

‘I fear Boris is dig­ging,’ he told the BBC. ‘Some­body needs to take the spade out of his hand.’

Car­rie Sy­monds FUrOre:

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