Mordaunt says UK Government’s values are fine amid criticism of Covid messages
Penny Mordaunt said her party’s values are “fine” after the SNP criticised “stomach-churning misogyny” in messages revealed to the UK Covid-19 inquiry.
The Commons Leader said the words of someone who lost a parent to Covid “should give us all pause for thought in this place”, but said that is why “this Government” has “placed professionalism and care of each other at the heart of what we do”.
She was responding to her SNP counterpart in the House of Commons, Deidre Brock, who criticised the Government’s “grotesque” record on women and equalities, placing particular focus on the recently-revealed messages of senior figures in Boris Johnson’s government during the pandemic.
Helen MacNamara, who was one of the country’s highest ranking female officials, told the Covid inquiry last week that sexism in No 10 damaged the response to the pandemic.
Speaking during a session of questions related to the business of the House, SNP Commons leader Ms Brock said: “There have been some absolutely shocking insights into this Government’s attitudes to women and equalities recently.”
She said the UK Government’s record on the issue is “grotesque”, saying: “First we had the stomach-churning misogyny, the language and behaviour towards women described by witnesses at the Covid inquiry.
“Even the Leader will find it hard, I imagine, to defend the routine and disgraceful attacks on women in a government in which she served. It told us so much.”
“What we’re talking about is this Tory Government’s values. And those values are not Scotland’s values,” she said, adding: “The values that suggest the way to help the homeless is banning charities from supplying tents to rough sleepers, because it’s a ‘lifestyle choice’ to be homeless, isn’t it?
“Comments so misjudged that even the Prime Minister was embarrassed.
“The values that say that we don’t care if we break international laws on poverty and the human rights of the poorest. The values that say that women can be dismissed in the foulest way imaginable as a part of normal behaviour.”
She suggested a debate on the Government’s values and what it has done to progress women and equalities and the interests of the vulnerable.
Ms Mordaunt responded: “I think that the powerful words of Susie Flintham, who is one of the Covid bereaved families, this week, should give us all pause for thought in this place.
“And that is why this Government has placed professionalism and care of each other at the heart of what we do.
“We are the first Government to have set up a ministerial HR function in Whitehall. That previously did not exist and it’s shameful that it didn’t exist.”
She pointed to previous comments where she said MPs and those involved in politics need to recognise they have a responsibility and duty of care to one another, adding: “This Government, and I as Leader of this House, take these matters incredibly seriously.”
Ms Mordaunt said: “She talks about values and language, I do hope that she will also be having a word with some of her party’s own activists who have intimidated those that stand against her or stand up for their own principles.”
She added: “She wants to talk about values. And I would just point out on women and inequalities issues, it is the SNP that have torn at the social fabric of the UK with their plans on gender recognition reforms.”
She defended her party’s approach to devolution, and criticised the SNP’s handling of local democracy and councils, saying the party “doesn’t respect local people and local decision-making”.
Bringing her response to a close, Ms Mordaunt said: “I think our values are fine. I think the honourable lady should look to her own party if she wants some improvement.”
It was not clear which remarks from Ms Flintham the Commons Leader was referencing.
But Ms Flintham told ChronicleLive last week: “Watching the inquiry has been hard not just as someone bereaved but as a woman, just seeing the utter misogyny and the idea that these posh straight white men had the sheer gall to think they knew better than anyone else.
“They made these decisions and they effectively decided to let older people literally die off.”
She was also quoted in The Guardian last month describing the “nastiness, arrogance and misogyny at the heart of government during the pandemic”.
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