Report into No 10 culture during pandemic found female staff ‘talked over’

An internal report into the culture at the top of Government in the early months of the pandemic found that female staff were being “talked over and ignored” and “bad behaviours” were being tolerated from senior leaders.

The report, by former top aide Martin Reynolds and then deputy cabinet secretary Helen MacNamara, was written in May 2020 amid concerns about discipline, “macho behaviour” and misogyny, the UK Covid-19 Inquiry heard on Monday.

Released as part of a batch of documents relevant to the inquiry, the report asked more than 45 people who worked closely with No 10 what could be done to better support the prime minister in May 2020.

Among the themes listed by the report are that culture was failing to get the best from people.

“Lots of people mentioned junior women being talked over or ignored,” the report summarised.

“We need a modern culture of organised collaboration, not superhero bunfight.”

The report also found that “people are exhausted and stressed” and that “bad behaviours from senior leaders (are) tolerated”.

Other themes included that there were “far too many meetings” taking up the time of senior leadership, and that No 10 was “always at war with someone”.

Mr Reynolds was asked about the report while giving evidence to the inquiry on Monday.

He agreed with counsel that the report showed “dysfunctionality, lack of discipline, chaos and a significant degree of misogyny”.