Dominic Cummings' WhatsApps 'will put women off entering politics'

Cabinet minister Michelle Donelan warns ‘misogyny’ on display in Dominic Cummings’ foul-mouthed Covid WhatsApp messages – in which he referred to a top female official as a ‘c***’ – risks putting women off entering politics

Cabinet minister Michelle Donelan today warned that ‘misogyny’ on display in Dominic Cummings’ WhatsApp messages risks putting women off entering politics.

The Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary admitted she was ‘concerned’ about the language used by senior Downing Street staff during the Covid crisis.

Mr Cummings, who was a senior No10 aide to ex-prime minister Boris Johnson, was this week confronted over his foul-mouthed messages as he appeared before the official inquiry into the pandemic.

It was revealed how, in a WhatsApp group, Mr Cummings branded one top female official a ‘c***’ and claimed he would ‘personally handcuff her and escort her from the building’.

Ms Donelan told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘I think I am concerned about some of the revelations and the comments that are coming out here.

‘Because my biggest concern is that other women will be watching and hearing that rhetoric and deciding that maybe politics isn’t for them.’

Cabinet minister Michelle Donelan warned that ‘misogyny’ on display in Dominic Cummings’ WhatsApp messages risks putting women off entering politics

Mr Cummings, a former senior No10 aide, branded one top female official a ‘c***’ and claimed he would ‘personally handcuff her and escort her from the building’

She added: ‘I don’t condone misogyny in any workplace. It makes me deeply concerned or angry, if you like, around rhetoric that is not appropriate, especially as we are meant to lead by example.’

Ms Donelan, who was an education minister at the height of the pandemic, said she has not personally experienced misogynistic behaviour.

She added ‘we should be encouraging Parliament and the ministerial team to be as diverse as possible’ and stressed that is what Rishi Sunak has done as PM.

‘What we want to make sure is that the next generation of politicians that come forward equally represent different parts of society and we’re not putting people off from politics, because that would be to the detriment of democracy,’ the Cabinet minister continued.

‘So I am concerned about the countless women that will be hearing this and I’m reading these comments.’

Mr Cummings’ foul-mouthed messages were about Helen MacNamara, who was one of Britain’s highest-ranking civil servants during the Covid crisis.

When he was challenged about the nature of his messages, Mr Cummings told the Covid inquiry this week he is ‘certainly not’ a misogynist.

He said: ‘I was not misogynistic. I was much ruder about men than I was about Helen.

‘I agree that my language is deplorable, but as you can see for yourself I deployed the same or worse language (for) the prime minister, secretary of state or other people.’

Giving her own evidence to the inquiry, Ms MacNamara, the former deputy cabinet secretary, described a ‘toxic culture’ in No10 during the pandemic.

On the WhatsApp messages from Mr Cummings, she said: ‘It’s horrible to read, but it is both surprising and not surprising to me, and I don’t know which is worse, actually.

‘I think that he was frustrated with me at the time, I would absolutely own that.

‘I would also say all I was doing was actually working in the service of the then prime minister and defending his interests.’

Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, told Times Radio that she doesn’t know ‘what planet’ Ms Donelan is on after the Cabinet minister claimed she’s never experienced macho culture in Westminster.

She said: ‘Every woman has experienced misogyny and sexism. I did actually hear part of your interview with Michelle Donelan, I thought I don’t know which planet she’s living on, but it’s not the same as the one that I’m on.’

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