Helen MacNamara, a former British civil servant, expressed to the COVID inquiry that female experts were “looked over” during the government’s COVID response.

MacNamara told the COVID inquiry that the macho and toxic culture within the government hindered how effective the government’s response to the COVID pandemic was, as women and female experts and scientists were not as involved in the decision-making process and had been “looked over”.

With 220 members of parliament being women as of the 2019 general election, it is appalling that women’s voices aren’t being heard in important matters such as the UK’s COVID response, which has been widely criticised by the general public and certain media outlets. With the UK governments’ only clear strength in the COVID response being the vaccine rollout, it is evident how positively impacted the government’s COVID response would have been if female experts were listened to and women in parliament acknowledged by their male counterparts.

MacNamara, who left her role as deputy Cabinet secretary in August 2021, also criticised Boris Johnson for his failures in tackling the issue of misogynistic language in reference to a string of WhatsApp messages and emails to colleagues sent by former chief advisor Dominic Cummings where he degraded and insulted MacNamara as was revealed during the COVID inquiry.

When asked by the inquiry, Dominic Cummings denied being misogynistic, stating that he was “much ruder about men,” although many of Cumming’s insults towards MacNamara were insults targeted at women. Cummings recognised his use of foul language when speaking about his colleagues as “deplorable”. This, however, does not portray Dominic Cummings as a feminist and his comments about MacNamara are unsavoury and certainly of a misogynistic nature.

The COVID inquiry will assess and evaluate the government’s COVID response and whether it was effective. It will also highlight the government’s successes and shortcomings in infection prevention, including the failure of track and trace and government parties during lockdown. MacNamara also revealed during the COVID inquiry that there was never a time when the social distancing rules were followed correctly in No. 10. Additionally, Helen Macnamara had also been fined for breaking lockdown rules, attending an illegal party and even bringing a karaoke machine. This is a shocking act of hypocrisy and has caused further distrust between the public and the government.

At a time when the government is under such scrutiny for the way in which the COVID pandemic was handled, it is important that misogyny is seen as detrimental to fair and fully informed legislation and has no place in government, politics, or policy and that the government takes accountability for its shortcomings and changes misogynistic attitudes and culture.

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