Women Should ‘Toughen Up’ To Deal With Sexual Harassment In Politics, Says Former Spin Doctor

Jo Philips says politics is 'a very tough world'

A former Liberal Democrat spin doctor has said women should ‘toughen up’ in order to deal with sexual harassment in the world of politics.

Jo Philips, former press secretary to former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown, caused anger among Twitter users who say it’s up to men to respect women.

Philips said that Westminster was a hard place to work, but added: ‘If you’re going into politics, you’re going into a very tough world.

‘It’s tough for men and women. There’s a lot of bullying, there’s a lot of nastiness, there’s a lot of appalling behaviour that you’d never get away with outside politics so you do have to toughen up a little bit.’

She said: ‘To a large extent, women in politics are in a better place to do something about it. You are in a position, having had to toughen up to get where you are in the first place… whereas if you are working in a company you don’t have the same power and it’s a lot harder to tell people to buzz off.’

John Major’s former press secretary Sheila Gunn agreed with Philips that women working in a notoriously male-dominated environment like politics should know what to expect.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, she said: ‘If you’re a young, female aspiring politician you actually have to learn a little bit about what the culture’s like and find ways of coping with it and coping with that sort of inappropriate behaviour.’

A recent report showed women were being squeezed out of politics.

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