The Politics of the School Run
by Tom Gregory
Nick Clegg has been accused of political weakness in Government before but this past week the newspapers have also presented him as “hen-pecked” at home. This was in response to an interview given by his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durántez, to Grazia Magazine. She said her husband “kills himself” to do the school run. In response The Telegraph decried: “Nick Clegg should run the country, not the kids to school” (although I am sure The Telegraph would rather Clegg was just doing the latter). In fact last year it was discovered that both Papa Clegg and Daddy Cameron had delayed cabinet to get their kids to school. In reaction to the criticism the Deputy Prime Minister told the Andrew Marr Show:
“... this is 2011. It's not 1911. The idea that fathers or mothers can't do a very good job in whatever walk of life but also remain as dedicated fathers and mothers is frankly an attitude which belongs in the last century or the one before that.”
This is a commendable attitude – but certainly not one held by most British men today. As Demos’ new report Reinventing the Workplace - being launched tomorrow by Vince Cable – shows, on Nick Clegg’s account British men’s outlooks are a century out of date.
Whilst Cameron and Clegg are firmly ‘modern men’ balancing work and family, our YouGov commissioned survey found that they were a rarity amongst today’s males. We asked people who were working ‘flexibly’ why they did so. Men were 50 per cent less likely than women to say that they worked flexibly in order “to spend more time with the children”. Instead, men were far more likely to respond that they worked flexibly in order “to have more free time”.
It doesn’t stop there: almost 9 in 10 men said they would not take more paternity leave if it was offered to them.
Clegg was wrong in his analysis of where British men are in 2011. But his sentiment and actions are right. David Cameron stated last year that he wanted Britain to be the most ‘family friendly country’ in Europe. Part of this is getting fathers to take more responsibility for childcare. As the new report shows, one of the best ways to change attitudes is for those at the top to act as role-models - challenging the entrenched norms of the workplace. And Papa Clegg and Daddy Cameron are doing just that – they are flexible working vanguards for the modern family – running their kids to school and running the country.