‘Tottymeter’ and ‘girly swots’: how Johnson shows women respect

He has insisted everyone should be treated with “respect and dignity”, spending this week’s Tory party conference reaffirming his commitment to women’s rights, but Boris Johnson has a long history of making less-than-respectful comments about women.

Just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way

Writing his valedictory as editor of the Spectator, Johnson made the following reference to Kimberly Quinn, then the publisher of the magazine:

Relax. It’s only Kimberly, with some helpful suggestions for boosting circulation. Just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way.


In 1996, Johnson wrote an article for the Telegraph under the headline “Hot Totty is on the agenda as women start to scent victory”. He wrote:

The unanimous opinion is that what has been called the ‘Tottymeter’ reading is higher than at any Labour party conference in living memory. Time and again the Tottymeter has gone off as a young woman delegate mounts the rostrum.”

Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts

In 2005, while campaigning to be the Conservative MP for Henley-on-Thames, Johnson is widely reported as saying:

Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.

Malaysian women go to university to find a husband

Johnson was overheard joking that the increase in the number of women attending university in Malaysia was down to their desire to find a husband.

He made the remark at the launch of the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) at City Hall, in London, where he appeared alongside the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak.

Asked about the role of women in Islamic societies, Razak said: “Before coming here, my officials have told me that the latest university intake in Malaysia, a Muslim country, 68% will be women entering our universities.”

Johnson interrupted him, suggesting the female students went to university because they:

… have got to find men to marry.

Laughter can be heard from audio from the meeting.

Single mothers

In a column for the Spectator, written in 1995 under the headline “The male sex is to blame for the appalling proliferation of single mothers”, Johnson wrote:

I blame the male sex for the appalling proliferation of single mothers, to which John Redwood has correctly alluded, by which 500,000 women have chosen to marry the state. J’accuse men of being responsible for a social breakdown which is costing us all, as taxpayers, £9.1bn per year, and which is producing a generation of ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children who in theory will be paying for our pensions.

And he continues:

It is no use blaming uppity and irresponsible women for becoming pregnant in the absence of a husband. Given their natural desire to have babies, and the tininess of what the sociologist William Julius Wilson has called the ‘marriageable pool’, it is the only answer.

And then concludes:

Something must be found, first, to restore women’s desire to be married. That means addressing the feebleness of the modern Briton, his reluctance or inability to take control of his woman and be head of a household.

Opening her well-bred legs

In 2007, in a car review slot for GQ magazine, Johnson likened his experience driving a Ferrari F340 in Hampshire to a sexual encounter:

I seemed to be averaging a speed of X and then the M3 opened up before me, a long quiet Bonneville flat stretch, and I am afraid it was as though the whole county of Hampshire was lying back and opening her well-bred legs to be ravished by the Italian stallion.

Assortative mating

In a 2006 collection of journalism, entitled Have I Got Views for You, Johnson wrote about the increasing tendency of women to work, saying they had been “socially gestapoed into the workplace”. He wrote:

In the last 30 years an ever-growing proportion of British women have been ‘incentivised’ or socially gestapoed into the workplace, on what seems to me to be the dubious assumption that the harder a woman works the happier she will be, when I am not sure that is true of women or anyone else.

In the same book, he said an increasing number of female graduates tended to pair up with male graduates – a process known by economists as “assortative mating” – and that they then pool their advantages, which in turn pushes up house prices.

The colossal expansion in the numbers of female graduates is in many ways a marvellous thing; but it has boosted the well-documented process of assortative mating, by which middle-class graduates marry middle-class graduates and thereby entrench their economic advantages, pooling their graduate incomes to push up house prices and increase the barriers to entry for the rest. The result is that in families on lower incomes the women have absolutely no choice but to work, often with adverse consequences for family life and society as a whole – in that unloved and undisciplined children are more likely to become hoodies, Neets [Not in education, employment, or training], and mug you on the street corner.

Girly swots and big girl’s blouses

Johnson referred to the former prime minister David Cameron as a “girly swot” in a recent cabinet paper, according to an unredacted version of court documents.

A handwritten note about the idea of suspending parliament for five weeks was initially revealed in 2019 by Downing Street as it resisted legal challenges in Edinburgh and London to the prorogation of parliament, both of which cases were eventually won by No 10.

This came after Johnson’s inaugural prime minister’s questions, during which he seemed to call the then opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn:

You great big girl’s blouse.