A Conservative councillor has apologised after he made comments suggesting rates of male loneliness are higher because women “gossip”.
Cllr Colin Baldwin, who represents Moreton West and Saughall Massie on Wirral Council, made the comments during an adult health and social care meeting on 23 January during a discussion of the local authority’s community connector service. This service aims to connect people to support, especially amongst those who might be isolated.
At the meeting, Cllr Baldwin praised the work carried out by the team having seen people door-knocking in the community pointing people towards help. He said, “I’m very much aware that people are getting very isolated at the moment and a lot of it is actually in the male population because women, they’ll talk, they’ll chat, they’ll gossip and all the rest of it but the men…”
He was later interrupted by committee chair Cllr Janette Williamson, who said, “I won’t accept sexist stereotypes on my committee, thanks very much.”
In response, Cllr Baldwin said, “I’m not talking about stereotypes here but no it is true. I find a lot of men I knock on doors and talk to, they say they don’t have any outlet,” adding, “They don’t know how to make the first steps to find themselves a way of communicating with other men or getting in men’s groups.
“They seem to be very rare. I’m sure they must be out there but I must admit I don’t know at the moment who they are, where they are so I can advise them when I’m speaking to them and I do apologise for that.” Cllr Williamson then suggested Cllr Baldwin needed to attend equality and diversity training, adding, “Three strikes and you’re out.”
Officers pointed councillors to the Wirral Infobank which lists different community groups across Wirral, as well as the service’s ability to give out £1,000 called the Sparks Fund to start and help support new groups.”
Cllr Phil Gilchrist said he was aware of the organisation Men in Sheds and one men’s organisation in the Bromborough Eastham area that operate out of a former St John’s Ambulance building, adding, “There’s sessions there to bring isolated men together and various activities, even cooking. I’m trying now to avoid stereotypes here but in my case it’s a bit dangerous but there are organisations out there.”
Speaking to the LDRS, Cllr Baldwin apologised again for the remarks, pointed to his own experiences, and stressed he meant to raise the important issue of male loneliness he had come across speaking to people as a councillor.
He added, “I am 77 in a couple of week’s time so I am old school. Basically, I was a little bit excited to talk about male loneliness. They talked about Men in Sheds but that is for men who have just retired. That only fulfils a function for a small group. The men I talk to are those who have lost their wives.”
He pointed to an old friendship group of his who used to hitchhike and go walking in Wales and go to the pub on a Tuesday night. Now, he said, “To be honest there are only a few of us who are still alive and three are in a care home and the rest are all dead so I am stuck.
“Some had to move away so I am aware that all my friends, they are not here and I cannot go out to the pub or have a meal together with them.”
Cllr Baldwin said he wasn’t aware of any men’s groups and getting out is also difficult for people who can’t drive and have to rely on public transport. He said, “It is true that women seem to have better networks than men so I wanted to know what there is for men,” adding, “A lot of men are too proud to seek help.”
Image: Cllr Colin Baldwin at the January 23 committee. Credit: Wirral Council