Senior civil servant wore Black Lives Matter lanyard at official meeting

Rosanna O’Connor wearing a Black Lives Matter lanyard during a meeting
Rosanna O’Connor wearing a Black Lives Matter lanyard during a meeting

A senior health mandarin wore a Black Lives Matter lanyard and displayed a poster supporting striking miners during official meetings.

Photographs published by The Telegraph show Rosanna O’Connor, a director in the Department for Health and Social Care, wearing a BLM logo during an online meeting in May 2021, during which officials discussed the dismantling of Public Health England.

In another virtual meeting discussing PHE, held on the day of the local elections in England on 6 May 2021, Mrs O’Connor displayed a poster supporting striking miners in the 1972 Saltley Gate dispute, with the caption “Saltley Gate Demonstration. March with the Miners”.

Sir Jacob Rees Mogg told The Telegraph: “This does not seem to be in line with the requirement for civil service impartiality and the Permanent Secretary of DHSC ought to look into these matters urgently.”

The Zoom call featuring the poster about the striking miners
The Zoom call featuring the poster about the striking miners

A civil servant source said: “The fact senior colleagues feel confident enough to display partisan Left-wing symbols and posters during official meetings is deeply concerning for those of us with different political beliefs.

“These actions create an atmosphere in which it is implied that there is only one acceptable political viewpoint in the Department for Health: Those who support BLM and the Left.

“My colleagues openly support the Labour Party in informal discussions and civil service impartiality is all but ignored by both senior and junior officials.

“Worst of all, successive secretaries of state do nothing to deal with these issues.”

All civil servants are bound by the Civil Service Code, which states that officials must be politically impartial and not “act in a way that is determined by party political considerations, or use official resources for party political purposes”.

Mrs O’Connor is the director of addictions and inclusion at the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities and previously worked in Public Health England on issues surrounding drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

The Telegraph can also reveal that civil servants accused then Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid of being “transphobic” after he tweeted that men do not have cervixes.

Controversy over Tweets

On 26 September 2021, Mr Javid tweeted that it was a “Total denial of scientific fact” to say that not only women have cervixes.

Five days later, officials in the Department of Health met online to discuss the closing down of PHE; civil servants were able to ask questions anonymously to their senior colleagues via an online message space.

One message, which received 89 “likes” from other civil servants, read: “It’s quite unsettling that nothing seems to have been done about the transphobic tweet that was posted by the SoS on Twitter a few days ago. Is anything being done? Coming over from PHE, it leaves me concerned with the treatment of Trans colleagues, and LGBT + members of DHSC.”

Another official asked: “Last Sunday the Secretary of State send [sic] a transphobic tweet saying that it was a scientific fact that only women have cervixes. What message do you think this sends to staff, particularly LGBT + staff?”

One questioner criticised the “entirely male and predominantly white” leadership team of the UK Health Security Agency and asked “How will EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) be taken forward in OHID [Office for Health Improvement and Disparities] going forward?”

The Telegraph understands that all questions had to be approved by a civil service moderator in order to be published in the online discussion.

The Department of Health and Social Care declined to comment. Rosanna O’Connor was approached for comment.

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