Johnson’s former communications chief criticises ‘class bias’ in Whitehall

Lee Cain, right, with Dominic Cummings (PA Wire)
13:51pm, Thu 22 Apr 2021
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

Whitehall officials still fail to take working class people seriously, Boris Johnson’s former communications director has said in his first public comments since departing No 10.

Lee Cain also suggested on Thursday that the Government could have averted its “terrible tangle” over free school meals if more senior politicians had experienced food poverty.

He left Downing Street in November amid a bitter power struggle that culminated in the departure of his Vote Leave ally Dominic Cummings.

In an article for The Spectator magazine, Mr Cain spoke of being the only person in a Cabinet meeting who had been eligible for free school meals while growing up.

I lost count of the times I was branded a ‘bruiser’, ‘thuggish’ or even an ‘oik’ for the twin crimes of having a strong northern accent and shaved hair

“Is that the reason the Government got itself in such a terrible tangle over this emotive issue? No. But would it have helped if more senior politicians had had personal experience of food poverty? Undoubtedly,” he wrote.

Mr Cain, from Ormskirk, Lancashire, said it is a “disaster” for working class children that it still matters in Westminster “what school tie you wore” and “what accent you have”.

He added: “My experiences in Westminster made it easy to see why young working-class women and men struggle to get ahead. Class-based bias still exists.

“I lost count of the times I was branded a ‘bruiser’, ‘thuggish’ or even an ‘oik’ for the twin crimes of having a strong northern accent and shaved hair.”

No 10 insisted change is under way to make Whitehall more representative.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I think there’s a great deal of work going on across the Civil Service to improve diversity, that’s been going on for some time. And I think the Civil Service recognises there’s still more work to do.”

Sign up to our newsletter