Ray Lewis was the only member of an ethnic minority appointed by Boris Johnson to the most senior level of his administration – it remains to be seen who will replace him. Due also to the resignation of the Deputy Chief of Staff James McGrath, and the row surrounding the elimination of anti-racism from the Rise Festival, considerable attention has been paid to Boris Johnson administration’s attitude to London’s ethnic minorities. Given that this is almost one third of Londoners this is obviously a major issue for the capital.
But equal attention has not been paid to similar developments concerning women. The elimination of women from the senior management levels in the Greater London Authority has been greater even than that for ethnic minorities and similar policies have been carried out down the line in the wider GLA Group.
Not a single one of Boris Johnson’s appointments to the most senior positions in the GLA Group, that is those one level down from the Mayor – the Chairs or Chief Executives of functional bodies (TfL, LDA, LFEPA), the statutory Deputy Mayor, or Directors/Deputy Mayor’s – has been a woman. (Director under the previous administration was equivalent, including in salary, to Deputy Mayor under Boris Johnson).
Five women occupied positions at the most senior level in the GLA group at the end of my administration – Nicky Gavron, the Deputy Mayor; Val Shawcross, Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA); Mary Reilly, Chair of the London Development Agency (LDA); Murziline Parchment, GLA Director of Strategic Projects and Performance, and Joy Johnson, GLA Director of Media and Marketing. All were replaced by Boris Johnson with men or, in the case of the Director of Strategic Projects and Performance, their post was simply abolished – five senior women were dismissed and every single replacement was a man.
In mid-June a second wave of the removal of senior women began – in most cases only one level down below the five most senior posts that had been held by women. This involved the removal of the mayoral advisers on Culture and Events, on Women, on Creative Industries, and on Planning. (This removal of senior women officials, incidentally, was accompanied by a deeply sexist description as ‘Ken’s wimmin‘.)
The Sunday Times clearly did not notice the irony when it wrote, having failed to spot the prior removal of even more senior women officials: ‘The manifesto pledge by new London mayor Boris Johnson to cut staff at the Greater London Authority is being fulfilled. Five senior posts held by women are to be axed in the mayor’s office.’
This approach was then repeated down the system. Funding was cut off to the annual Capital Woman conference, attended by up to 2,000 people each year, to discuss the issues facing women in London in London. The Board of Safer Travel at Night, dealing with issues of safe travel for women, was suspended – with no indication whether it would be resumed. It may also be noted only 1 out of 11 in Tory group on the London Assembly is a woman.
Boris Johnson has attempted to point to the appointment of his adviser on culture who is a woman – but this is absolutely not comparable to the five senior women replaced by men; it is only one appointment and three salary levels down in the GLA.
The position of women in the most senior positions of responsibility in the GLA has therefore been virtually eliminated, and at that most senior level it has been wholly eliminated in the Mayor’s Office itself and at the level of heads of GLA functional bodies.
This lack of interest of Boris Johnson in the position of women in London had already been shown prior to the election. He was the only major candidate for Mayor not even to bother to reply to the Fawcett Society’s questionnaire to the Mayoral candidates on their policies on women. Nor did he bother to produce any manifesto on his policies for women. As already noted, one of his first actions was to abolish the post of adviser to the Mayor on issues particularly affecting women. This is despite the fact, for example, that research by the Women in London’s Economy programme, which I had supported as Mayor, brought out the striking fact that the gender pay gap in London has been the highest in any UK region – requiring sustained emphasis to address this as well as many other issues facing women in London.
To make a comparison to the situation of ethnic minorities in the senior levels of the GLA, one person at the most senior level below the Mayor was appointed – Ray Lewis, Deputy Mayor for Young People and Opportunities, although he has now of course resigned. However three of the most senior positions in the GLA Group at the same level as Ray Lewis – that is Chair or Chief Executive of functional bodies, deputy Mayor/Director level in the GLA – had previously been held by members of ethnic minorities. These were the Chief Executive of the LDA, the GLA Director of Strategic Projects and Performance, and the Director for Equalities and Policing (a post which had been held by Lee Jasper, whose personal return would have been dependent on the outcome of an independent enquiry, but if he had not returned the post would have been retained and filled by someone from an ethnic minority in order to adequately deal with equalities).
Again an attempt has been made by Boris Johnson, as a piece of PR, to point to two other appointments from members of ethnic minorities – his advisers on transport and culture. But again this is entirely false as these are not in fact appointments at the most senior level – the transport adviser is on the second rank in terms of salary and the culture adviser, as noted, is on the third rank.
Eliminating double counting, seven women and members of ethnic minorities have been eliminated from the most senior levels of the GLA Group and only one has been appointed. At the next level of seniority down four women and members of ethnic minorities have been eliminated and only two appointed. This is a huge shift against ethnic minorities and the almost total elimination of women, from the most senior ranks of the GLA. It shows to be farcical Andrew Gilligan’s claim ‘Johnson has assembled a senior team significantly more ‘inclusive’ and ‘diverse’ than anything Livingstone managed.’
What has in fact been carried out is one of the most complete purges of women from the senior levels of management ever seen in any administration with corresponding changes at other levels.
As stated earlier, attention is beginning to be paid to the attitude of Boris Johnson’s administration to ethnic minorities and to poor people in London – in particular around the elimination of half price bus travel for those on income support. But equal attention should be paid to what is happening to the position of women with this administration, as it is similarly drastic.