Tag Archives: maternity leave

Ruth Davidson and the Dinosaurs

Whereas the thought of being on the road fighting two elections in twenty months would once have fired me up; the threat of spending hundreds of hours away from my home and family now fills me with dread.

So said former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson in her resignation letter last week.

Most campaigners, candidates or MPs will know exactly what she meant when she said those words. Politics can be fun, addictive and all-consuming (especially in these extraordinary times) but we nearly all reach a point when home and hearth tug in a way that canvassing a whole street in the rain certainly does not!

Even 14 years later I am haunted by the words of my toddler daughter when I was a busy parliamentary candidate. Playing with her plastic animals she told her babysitter: “This is Baby dinosaur. This is Daddy dinosaur. But Mummy dinosaur is at a meeting”.

Jo Swinson and Ruth Davidson have been inspiring role models for working mothers. They have both been honest that it isn’t easy. Obviously the pressure on them as party leaders is vastly greater than on us bog standard PPCs. But Davidson and Swinson did at least have two things that pregnant parliamentary candidates do not: 

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Congratulations, Jacinda

It was lovely to hear that the Prime Minister of New Zealand is pregnant. What more extraordinary proof that women can have it all.

Even for political minnows though going back after six weeks as she plans is a tall order.

Hopefully her eminence means that she will have a fantastic support system in place. For those of us small fry activists who have to write our own leaflets, print them, pay for them and deliver them delivering a baby at the same time and fending off the hostility for having “deserted” our post is pretty tough going.

It is amazing how having a baby exerts such strong feelings in others. Lovely ones like protectiveness, joy and empathy but also hideous ones like jealousy, misogyny and even revulsion. It is salutary to note that pregnancy is a time when women are most in danger from domestic violence. When I was a pregnant parliamentary candidate I could scarcely believe how downright rude people could be: “a walking caesarean”, “oh not another one”, “have you got another one in there?” (and that was just the Lib Dems!) This was a decade ago and I really hoped that the climate had changed so it was depressing to see that very recently the Labour MP Luciana Berger was greeted with derision for supposed absences when she was breastfeeding.

Perhaps a good way forward is to have proper protocols for maternity leave for politicians at all levels. According to a recent report a mind blowing 97% of councils have no formal procedures to allow councillors to take maternity leave.

I drafted the following for our own party and would welcome your thoughts.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 9 Comments

Opinion: Shared Parental Leave? Why Bother?

Nick Clegg’s announcement today may be overshadowed by various rows in the media, but this is an historic moment. Parents will soon be able to share 50 weeks of the 52 weeks maternity leave entitlement, and everyone will have the right to request flexible working.

Why does this matter?

Because we are wasting the talent of our women workers to such an extent that when women start a family they often take a drop in their pay, lose the opportunity for promotion or even can find themselves locked out of the labour market. About one million women are missing from the …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 4 Comments
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