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by Staff reporter
22 May 2023
Andrew Bowie: Tory MPs were ‘patronising’ towards Theresa May because she is a woman

Andrew Bowie: Tory MPs were ‘patronising’ towards Theresa May because she is a woman

Tory minister Andrew Bowie has spoken of the “resentment” he feels about the way former prime minister Theresa May was treated by some of his colleagues.

He said May, to whom he directly reported as parliamentary private secretary, was subject to “a lot of sexism” and some backbenchers were “patronising”, he said in an exclusive interview with Holyrood.

Bowie said: “I like Theresa [May] very much and came to know [her] very well. I still have a lot of resentment towards, not the individuals necessarily, but the things that were done and said about her, which I frankly think wouldn’t have been the case if she’d been a man. There was a lot of sexism involved in the caricature of her.”

He added: “I’ve been in rooms with Boris [Johnson], in rooms with Theresa, and in rooms with Rishi [Sunak], and the way that backbenchers within my own party addressed Theresa, they would never speak to a male prime minister in the same way. Patronising, yeah, they would be like, patting her on the arm and saying, ‘now, let me give you a bit of advice’, that kind of thing.”

The MP has represented West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine since the 2017 general election, since which time he has risen through government ranks and served under three prime ministers.

In the wide-ranging interview, he suggested the reason May gained a reputation for being “robotic” was because the party “overly protected her from media scrutiny” in an attempt to “present this strong and stable outlook”.

“If they had just let her be herself, let people see who she really is, then I think it wouldn’t have become as big an issue as it became,” he added.

He also suggested May would “probably” have been a better prime minister than Johnson during the pandemic, while Johnson would have been better through the Brexit years.

He said: “Boris for Brexit, Theresa for Covid, could that have worked better? Probably, but then nobody knew Covid was around the corner, so it’s a difficult question to answer. Would she have taken different decisions or have presented the decisions that were taken in a different way? Almost certainly.”

Bowie became the new nuclear minister in February this year.

He has accused the SNP of having a “Luddite mentality” towards nuclear technology, adding the party was “stuck in the past”.

He added: “It’s so frustrating, it’s the biggest frustration I’ve got today. It is bad for Scotland and bad for Scots.

“I just had a meeting with an American company which wants to come into the UK and develop small modular reactors and they had a map of the British Isles where they wanted to develop. And all across England and Wales are little red dots where they are going to go, and of course, Scotland is just blank. A no-go.”

The Scottish Government is opposed the building of new nuclear power stations in Scotland, instead arguing renewable energy offers the best pathway to net zero by 2045.

Net zero secretary Mairi McAllan has previously said: "Nuclear, in current technologies, will never present value for money and it has an environment price tag that takes decades, even longer, to clean up.”

Bowie also revealed that he “couldn’t think of anything worse” than becoming prime minister and that when he first joined the Conservatives as a teen he was forced to quit because it was then against the rules of the Royal Navy, which he has also just joined.

The full interview with Andrew Bowie can be read in the latest edition of Holyrood magazine.

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