Boris Johnson’s first day as prime minister was marked by demonstrations across London. Here, six women tell Stylist why they protested his appointment.
On Tuesday 23 July, Boris Johnson was announced as the UK’s new prime minister. His appointment has been welcomed by his supporters, including several female politicians who have since joined his cabinet. The Telegraph’s Allison Pearson wrote that his inaugural speech as PM made her feel “like the fog was lifting to reveal a day glittering with hope”, while anti-FGM activist Nimco Ali celebrated Johnson’s victory on Twitter. New housing minister Esther McVey said she was “delighted” by Johnson’s success, and new home secretary Priti Patel praised his “vision for our country [and] optimism about our future”.
But not everyone is so excited about this new chapter in British politics. Hours after Johnson travelled to Buckingham Palace to be formally appointed by the Queen (a journey that was interrupted by climate activists blocking the road), anti-Johnson protests spread across London.
From 5.30pm, Russell Square played host to a ‘fck govt fck boris’ demo, co-organised by the Women’s Strike Assembly and named after a lyric from Stormzy’s recent single Vossi Bop. After speeches from figures including shadow chancellor John McDonnell, demonstrators – more than 10,000, according to the event’s organisers – marched across the capital to Downing Street.
Although he calls himself a feminist, Johnson has been conspicuously silent on many important issues affecting women – so Stylist went down to the demo to ask women why they were protesting his premiership. Here’s what they had to say.
“I’m here with United Voices of the World Trade Union, which represents workers in the sex industry and other low-paid, precarious fields. Basically, Boris Johnson is a misogynist and he’s a racist. We’ve been fighting for years for equal rights for women and LGBT people, and he’s not a good role model for those ideals.”
“First of all, I think it’s really important to show that there are so many people that are actually not happy to have Boris as prime minister. He was not elected [by the majority of the population], and I’m hoping that there will be sufficient pressure to call for an early general election.
Secondly… it’s Boris Johnson. I mean, could there be a worse person to run this country? It’s just so appalling, and we need to show that we do have agency. There was nothing we could do, he’s now prime minister, but we can show that there are many people who really oppose this happening. It’s a way of vetoing Boris Johnson without a vote, which I think is an incredibly important political act.”
Osob, 25 (left), and Chloe, 21
Osob: “I came out because I felt like this was my opportunity to show how I feel. I wanted to be around likeminded people and see how many people are just like us – that hate him so much, and are not happy to see him as PM. It’s just a big fat joke to be honest, and that’s why I’m here.”
Chloe: “I’ve come today because I think it’s very important that I don’t just stand by and let things happen. I think you can either fight oppression or you can accept it. I don’t think there’s another alternative.”
“I feel very strongly about showing my disgust at having a leader of our country who is clearly a misogynist, clearly a homophobe, clearly going to destroy so many of the values that we’ve worked for in this country. The protesting starts now, and we’re not gonna stop.”
“I’m a Muslim woman, and Boris Johnson has repeatedly fanned the flames of Islamophobia and made my life and my community’s lives very unsafe. And he hasn’t apologised – he’s doubled down. People tend to laugh off all of his gaffes as him being silly, but his acts are very harmful. So I wanted to come here today and show that we don’t like Boris Johnson, we do not think he should be the prime minister, we do not think his behaviour is acceptable and we stand against it.”
Main image: Guy Smallman/Getty Images