Aide linked to Boris to chair debate on abuse of women in politics
THE former Tory aide who has been romantically linked to Boris Johnson is due to make a star turn at Tory conference speaking about the ‘abuse’ which deters women from pursuing political careers.
Carrie Symonds, 30, who grew close to the former Foreign Secretary in the months before his marriage split, is scheduled to host a fringe event on the shortage of woman MPs – on the same day Mr Johnson is due to address a barnstorming ‘chuck Chequers’ rally at the Birmingham gathering.
The former Conservative communications director – who has refused to discuss her friendship with Mr Johnson – is due to chair an event by the Centre For Policy Studies thinktank titled: ‘What’s stopping women from stepping up?’
The panel, which includes 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, including Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, Tory MP Nicky Morgan and Labour’s Stella Creasy, 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 City 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 Prime Minister.
‘I fear Boris is digging,’ he told the BBC. ‘Somebody needs to take the spade out of his hand.’
FURORE: Carrie Symonds