Boris Johnson ‘calls himself a feminist’ but his past comments suggest otherwise

Zaina Alibhai
Tuesday 09 March 2021 13:27
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(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson will not be taking paternity leave after the birth of his son due to his heavy workload.

The prime minister and partner Carrie Symonds welcomed Wilfred on 29 April last year, two weeks after Johnson was discharged from the intensive care unit where he was recovering from Covid-19.

He did not take his paternity leave at the time, claiming he was to take it at a later date. However, his press secretary Allegra Stratton has now confirmed it is unlikely Johnson is to clock off at all.

She said: “He is the prime minister, and he works a very long day. He has a huge workload, and I don’t think he will be taking paternity leave.”

UK law allows fathers to take either one or two weeks of paid paternity leave within 56 days of their child’s birth.

Former prime minister David Cameron took time off to spend with his wife and new daughter in 2010, while Tony Blair also claimed his leave after the birth of his son in 2000.

Stratton insisted her boss describes himself as a feminist.

This is despite there being an overwhelming number of male ministers in his Cabinet.

Just six women make up the 26 senior ministers in Cabinet: home secretary Priti Patel, international trade secretary Liz Truss, work and pension secretary Therese Coffey, House of Lords leader Baroness Evans, and Amanda Milling, a minister without portfolio.

Attorney General Suella Braverman was recently replaced by Michael Ellis, while she took maternity leave.

Acknowledging it did not represent “the population at large”, Stratton claimed Johnson had plans to promote more women into high-profile roles.

She said: “We know that there is improvement to come in the years ahead when he – who knows when this comes – when we have promotions to Cabinet.”

Meanwhile, Johnson has been quoted as saying a number of questionable things in the past, not least about single mothers.

In a 1995 column forThe Spectator, he wrote it was outrageous that married couples should pay for a single mother’s desire to procreate independently of men.

He added the children of single mothers were “ill-raised, aggressive, and illegitimate children who in theory will be paying for our pensions”.

Johnson, then 31 years old suggested that “women’s desire to be married” should be restored by “addressing the feebleness of the modern Briton, his reluctance or inability to take control of his woman and be head of a household”.

He also addressed what he described as allegations of “crass sexism” in a 2001 diary column, in which he then compared the attractiveness of female delegates at the Tory and Labour party conferences – referencing “the Tottometer, the geiger counter that detects good-looking women”.

And in a third column in 2005 describing his life as editor of the publication, he described waking from a nap on an office sofa, saying: “You come round in a panic, to find a lustrous pair of black eyes staring down at you.

“Relax. It’s only Kimberly, with some helpful suggestions for boosting circulation. Just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way.”

Stratton said it was “not unreasonable” for Johnson to be pressed on his previous comments, but insisted he had described himself as a feminist during a meeting with his females MPs.

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