Boris Johnson today came under fire from a government adviser and close friend of wife Carrie for blocking a ban on wolf-whistling.
Nimco Ali suggested that the PM was partly to blame for the failure to criminalise street harassment.
She also launched an extraordinary attack on Jacob Rees-Mogg, saying the Cabinet minister does not ‘believe in ‘basic human rights’, and complained that ministers spoken out on abortion rights in the US.
Ms Ali was appointed to advise Priti Patel in 2020, and has called for behaviour such as catcalling and staring persistently to be punishable with on-the-spot fines.
Last summer the government announced a crackdown on sexual harassment after 180,000 people responded to a public consultation – the vast majority during a two-week period following the murder of Sarah Everard.
It did not rule out making street harassment illegal, but Ms Ali told the BBC’s Political Thinking with Nick Robinson podcast that she had faced ‘pushback’ on the issue.
Nimco Ali suggested in an interview with the BBC (pictured) that Boris Johnson was partly to blame for the failure to criminalise street harassment
Ms Ali is a close friend of Carrie Johnson (pictured with the PM last year)
Ms Ali insisted Ms Patel backed the ban, but it had been held back by other figures in government.
Robinson pushed the adviser on whether that meant the PM’s advisers were resisting the move.
‘I think it’s a lot closer than that. So obviously I’ve become somewhat au fait with how to avoid the question … so you can take from my silence, you know, however you want to put.
‘But I can say that the Home Secretary and other people within the Home Office are very much behind it.’
Robinson said: ‘I’m going to assume that the Prime Minister is not in this case.’
Outlining her stance Ms Ali said: ‘For me, I would specifically love (for) public sexual harassment to become a crime.
‘One of the things that I’ve seen is that a department and a Secretary of State can have an opinion and then there can be other things (where there is) pushback,’ she said, before clarifying the pushback came from ‘other people’.
‘And Cabinet responsibility is a thing – so that’s why I’m saying ‘as a thing’, it’s not just individual, so I do think that there is at times a very masculined conversation where the Government, in how Government and institutions work, so we need to be able to address that,’ she added.
Ms Ali had withering words for Mr Rees-Mogg, saying ‘I don’t think he’s a feminist’.
And she lashed out at former minister Jeremy Hunt over his views on abortion.
‘I don’t think he (Mr Rees-Mogg) believes in the basic human rights that women are meant to uphold,’ she said.
‘And it kind of scares me that if there is a leadership, again, that there will be people who are in the forefront, like Jeremy Hunt, for example, who doesn’t believe in access to abortion to 24 weeks.
‘He’s been open about bringing that down to 12 weeks. So for me, it’s like it is about protecting fundamental things that I care about.’
Ms Ali took aim at UK ministers for their response to reports that the US Supreme Court is on the verge of overturning the Roe vs Wade ruling on abortion rights.
‘It’s actually quite embarrassing that no senior government person has actually stood out like the Canadians have and said the right to an abortion is a fundamental human right,’ she said.
‘Canada has said that, other G7 leading countries or people have actually within those governments, have said it.’
When the crackdown on harassment was announced last year, Ms Patel said: ‘The safety of women and girls across the country, wherever they are, is an absolute priority for me.
‘It is unacceptable that women and girls are still subject to harassment, abuse, and violence, and I do not accept that violence against women and girls is inevitable.
Ms Ali also launched an extraordinary attack on Jacob Rees-Mogg, saying the Cabinet minister does not ‘believe in ‘basic human rights’
The Government said it would not rule out creating new laws over street harassment, saying: ‘We are looking carefully at where there may be gaps in existing law and how a specific offence for public sexual harassment could address those.’
It also vowed to look at whether street design features could help improve personal safety in public, while it will also pilot an online tool called StreetSafe, allowing members of the public to anonymously highlight locations where they feel particularly vulnerable.
The announcement also contained measures including a public campaign ‘focused on creating behavioural change’ which the Government hopes will challenge misogyny in society, as well as pledges to ensure police know how to effectively respond to allegations.
Marketing executive Ms Everard, 33, was kidnapped, raped and killed by off-duty Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens in March 2021 as she walked home, and prompted a widespread outpouring of grief and demonstrations over concern for women’s safety.