Dozens of women working in Westminster have written an open letter rallying against the “misogynist” treatment of Carrie Symonds by the media.
Symonds, an ex-Tory communications director, has been linked to former foreign secretary Boris Johnson after it was announced he and his wife are to divorce.
The signatories of the letter, published by HuffPost UK, include sports minister Tracey Crouch, MPs Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Stella Creasy and feminist activist Caroline Criado Perez. They say have been left “disturbed and shocked” by the media coverage surrounding the 30-year-old.
Symonds, who graduated from Warwick University with a first class degree and later became head of press for the Conservative Party, has been variously painted as a “scarlet woman” and her personal social media accounts have been plundered by the press.
The letter says: “There was and is absolutely no need for newspapers and websites to trawl through a woman’s social media, repeatedly indulging in innuendo and publishing dozens and dozens of pictures of her, all taken from her private life – with some dating from over ten years ago.
“Being a woman in politics isn’t easy, and each of us has had to overcome a lot to get to where we are, and so has she. 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.
“It is often asked why women are hesitant to get into political journalism, become MPs, or simply start a career in Westminster; incidents like this go some way towards explaining why.”
Signed by 70 women in total, the letter urges editors and journalists to “do better. Be better.”
Symonds was due to start a new job at Bloomberg on Monday promoting clean oceans, but the company announced she has deferred her starting date.
The letter and its signatories in full
An open letter from women working in Westminster:
We are a group of women with little in common; we have different professions, different political allegiances or none, we are of different ages and move in different social circles, but one thing unites us: we have had enough.
We all work in or around politics, and have been disturbed and shocked to watch the way Carrie Symonds has been treated by the media.
There was and is absolutely no need for newspapers and websites to trawl through a woman’s social media, repeatedly indulging in innuendo, and publishing dozens and dozens of pictures of her, all taken in her private life - with some dating from over ten years ago.
Some of us are close friends and former colleagues of Carrie’s; others acquaintances, and some of us have never met her. Still, we are united in thinking that the way she has been treated is appalling, and must never happen again.
Being a woman in politics isn’t easy, and each of us has had to overcome a lot to get to where we are, and so has she. 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.
It is often asked why women are hesitant to get into political journalism, become MPs, or simply start a career in Westminster; incidents like this go some way towards explaining why.
To the journalists and editors who have used a news story as an excuse to infringe on the personal life of a young woman and titillate their readers, and the people in Westminster who have helped them make this shameful coverage happen, we say: do better. Be better.
- Marie Le Conte, freelance journalist
- Bethany Wheatley, former Digital Director, Conservative Party
- Lauren McEvatt, MD Morpeth Consulting and former Conservative Special Adviser
- Frankie Leach, Officer to the General Secretary, Labour Party
- Kate Maltby, writer and critic
- Caroline Criado Perez, writer and feminist activist
- Jane Merrick, political journalist
- Kerri Prince, political staffer and Councillor
- Martha Gill, political journalist
- Flora Coleman, TRG National Deputy Chair and former Conservative Special Adviser
- Tara O’Reilly, Coordinator to the Labour Tribune MPs Group
- Gaby Hinsliff, columnist at The Guardian & The Pool
- Marisa Bate, freelance writer and contributing editor at The Pool
- Eva Barboni, founder Atalanta
- Baroness Anne Jenkin, founder Women2Win
- Suzanne Moore, Columnist The Guardian
- Nimco Ali, Co-founder of Daughters of Eve
- Anna Soubry MP
- Nicky Morgan MP
- Clare Ambrosino, president Parliament Street think tank
- Polly Mackenzie, Chief Executive of Demos and former Liberal Democrat Special Adviser
- Stella Creasy MP
- Sophie Jarvis, Policy advisor, Adam Smith Institute
- Hannah Lazell, political advisor
- Maria Baker, senior researcher
- Sarah Ditum, columnist
- Allie Renison, Head of Europe and Trade Policy, Institute of Directors
- Nicole Valentinuzzi, Director of Communications, Institute for Government
- Resham Kotecha, strategy consultant
- Baroness Simone Finn, former Conservative Special Adviser
- Beth Armstrong, Conservative Special Adviser
- Heidi Allen MP
- Roxy Lackschewitz-Martin, Senior Researcher
- Stephanie Reeves, Board member, TRG
- Joy Morrissey, shortlisted Conservative candidate for London mayor
- Cat Neilan, head of politics at CityAM
- Catherine Mayer, Author and co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party
- Jen Davis, political staffer
- Carol Freeman, Ellwood Atfield
- Emma Barr, Communications Adviser
- Jade Marsden, Deputy Chairman Merseyside Conservatives
- Sarah-Jane Sewell, Charity Lobbyist and former Co-Chairman of Conservative Young Women
- Alicia Kearns, Counter Terrorism Consultant and Prospective Conservative Candidate
- Sian Norris, freelance writer and journalist
- Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP
- Romilly Dennys
- Ayesha Hazarika, political commentator and former Labour adviser
- Meg Powell-Chandler
- Laura Holloway, Public Affairs Director
- Rosie Luff, Political Adviser, What Next? and National Campaign for the Arts
- Viya Nsumbu, Political Consultant
- Rachel Cunliffe, comment and features editor, CityAM
- Katrina Sale, CEO of Wisetree
- Vanessa Pine, comms consultant and former Lib Dem Special Adviser
- Binita Mehta-Parmar, Director of Modern Britain
- Nicole Richer, Vice Chairman of Hendon Conservative Association
- Abigail Morris, Head of Public Affairs
- Karen Renshaw, Public Affairs professional
- Kirsty Finlayson, Solicitor and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
- Nicole Richer, Vice Chairman, Hendon Conservative Association
- Madeleine Hale, public affairs professional
- Casey Calista, Political Consultant
- Tracey Crouch MP
- Charlotte Lang, Director of Public Affairs, Hume Brophy
- Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
- Rachel Sylvester, journalist