in Britain. Foreign Minister and acting prime minister William Hague (you may remember him as the somewhat clownish Conservative Party leader in the late 1990s) is publicly denying that his relationship with a 25 year old male advisor, Christopher Myers, is anything other than professional. Apparently the suspicion that it is other than professional is based on three factors: (1) Hague has appointed Myers as his special policy advisor, with salary paid from public funds, though Myers has little policy experience (echoes of New Jersey’s
a few years ago who installed his Israeli boyfriend in a six figure state position); (2) a year old photograph of a casually dressed Hague and Myers chummily walking together on the Victoria Embankment in Westminster (which evidently has some particular significance to the Brits); and (3) they shared a hotel room during the general election campaign. Factor number three means nothing; men who are traveling together or attending a conference share hotel rooms as a matter of course. But Factor number one does raise questions. And as for Factor two, that photo does look rather, how shall I say …
Oh, and why is Hague acting prime minister? Because the prime minister of once-Great Britain, David Cameron, is on paternity leave. At least that’s what the
: “Mr Hague is officially running the country with PM David Cameron on paternity leave and Deputy PM Nick Clegg in Pakistan.”
From politics to parenthood: U.K. PM takes paternity leave
Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010
He is the father of a newborn baby girl, who, like millions of other dads, wants to take some time off work to spend those first few precious days bonding with the new addition to the family and providing support to the recovering mother.
But when David Cameron takes the next few weeks off work [emphasis added] following the birth of his fourth child, a daughter named Florence Rose Endellion, he will become the first British prime minister—and possibly the first world leader ever—to take his statutory paternity leave.
The decision by Britain’s most powerful politician to put work on hold—only months after being elected to office in an election thriller and as an economic crisis grips the country—is one that child-rearing experts say has the potential to shift workplace attitudes more favour-ably toward paternity leave.
Others, including media and political commentators, argue that Mr. Cameron’s decision will do little to encourage men to take time off because, as prime minister, he can afford a two-week break, unlike the average British father who is entitled to just £124.88 a week for two weeks or 90% of their average weekly wage, whichever is lower.
“A lot of fathers who have taken parental leave or want to take it say they feel like they’re letting their workplace team or their boss down,” said Andrea Doucet, a sociology professor at Carleton University and author of Do Men Mother? “But when the most powerful person in British politics takes paternity leave, it sends a signal to other men that taking two weeks off when your child is born is not going to end your career, nor should it.”
The newly elected Mr. Cameron, 43, is only the second prime minister in modern times after Tony Blair to become a parent while in office, and since most politicians tend to have their families before achieving high office, paternity leave is clearly not something most world leaders have had to contemplate.
In 2000, Mr. Blair chose not to take time off immediately after the birth of his son, Leo, but cut down his schedule and reportedly did his fair share of looking after him at night.
Mr. Cameron’s wife, Samantha, gave birth by Caesarean section last week during the family’s holiday to Cornwall in southwest England. The baby—the couple’s fourth child—had not been due until September.
Mrs. Cameron left the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro with her new baby on Friday.
“Mother and baby are doing well and now look forward to spending the rest of their holiday in Cornwall with family and friends,” a spokesman for Mr. Cameron said.
The Prime Minister was expected to return to 10 Downing Street following his holiday, but will now leave Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in charge for another two weeks.
“He obviously wants to take some time off, like any young dad does, for paternity leave and I will just carry on holding the fort,” Mr. Clegg told a London radio station. “We haven’t yet spoken about exactly what date he is returning.”
Last year, Mr. and Mrs. Cameron were struck by tragedy when their six-year-old son, Ivan, who suffered from a rare combination of cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy, died.
Ms. Doucet says it often takes major incidents or tragedies for men to change their attitudes towards the importance of paternity leave.
“Mr. Cameron obviously sees that it’s important,” she said. “It’s good for the family because this is a time of transition. He gets to participate and be with his partner who may need support in different ways.”
Despite Britain’s statutory two-week paternity leave, introduced by Mr. Blair’s Labour government in 2003, a study by that country’s Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2009 found that 45% of new fathers did not take time off work, saying they could not afford it. Maternity leave in the U.K. currently sits at one year.
Rob Williams, chief executive of the Fatherhood Institute, an organization lobbying for changes to U.K. law that would give fathers more time off to spend with their children, told BBC News he believes the British system should be reformed to allow parents to share paid time off, as in Scandinavia and Canada.
“Modern British families have come a long way. According to some studies, fathers spend 800% more time with their children than they did in the early 1970s,” he said. “But among those who make the rules, there’s still the assumption that father is a useful helper, but his real role is to be the breadwinner.”
[end of National Post article]
James N. writes: