Apology over ‘wokerati' heckles at women in surgery talk

'Their interruptions got louder and ruder'

Thursday, 17th March — By Dan Carrier

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The Royal College of Surgeons

THE co-chairs of the Bloomsbury Association have issued a public apology after they were accused of disrupting an International Women’s Day event held by the Royal College of Surgeons.

The celebratory event was marking a new five-year strategy to attract women to train as surgeons at the college’s new Lincoln’s Inn headquarters when Ray Cornwell and Patsy Prince began heckling and accusing the speakers of being “woke”.

Aimed to help counter the prejudice female surgeons continue to face from both colleagues and patients, the college had opened the doors of the new wing to community groups and the public.

Although they head the Bloomsbury Association, Mr Cornwell – a property developer who also appears at events as a look-a-like of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, and Ms Prince, a former council election candidate for the Tories – said they were attending in a private capacity.

Jurgen Klopp lookalike Ray Cornwell

Consultant surgeon Tamzin Cuming, who is the chair of the College’s Women in Surgery network, had given the key note speech focusing on the need to improve the numbers of female surgeons when the disturbances began.

One College employee, who did not want to be named, told the New Journal: “Unfortunately two guests attended who clearly didn’t agree women had any right to complain about sexism in surgery and made this very clear.”

Mr Cornwell and Ms Prince told the New Journal this week they wanted to personally apologise for their approach to the College’s chief executive, Andrew Reed.

“We are extremely sorry for any upset we may have caused at the recent event to celebrate International Women’s Day at the Royal College of Surgeons, which we attended in a private capacity,” they said.

“The Bloomsbury Association of course supports the aims of International Women’s Day – indeed many of the leading lights in the Association since its founding have been prominent women from across the political spectrum. It was never our intention to cause any disturbance and we would like to unreservedly apologise to the RCoS if this was the case.”

Others told the New Journal the event had been badly disrupted.

A College employee added: “The pair had enjoyed our hospitality, but then heckled the female surgeon speakers and interrupted from the floor, ignoring requests to leave questions to the end of the talk.

“Ignoring polite requests to keep questions polite, their interruptions got louder and ruder.”

After a renewed request from guests for the couple to tone down their noisy remarks triggered more animated discussion, Mr Reed asked the pair to leave. This prompted what witnesses called “a stand-off”, disparaging remarks about the event and Mr Reed being labelled a member of the “wokerati”.

Mr Reed told the New Journal he hoped Mr Cornwell and Ms Prince would reconsider their views and urged them to consider the sacrifices of female surgeons, who had worked on the frontline throughout the pandemic.

He said: “As a 60-year old privileged white man I have to say I am going to wear that badge of being ‘woke’ with pride, if it means I do speak up for NHS staff that are discriminated against for their gender.”

A spokeswoman for the RCoS said: “Apology accepted. Hopefully they will look at this issue again with an open mind, and learn more about the work we’re doing to make surgery a diverse and welcoming profession for everyone.”

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