Boris Johnson will be too busy to take paternity leave to look after his son Wilf – but the prime minister’s aides insist he is a feminist.
The PM’s press secretary Allegra Stratton also said Johnson accepts his cabinet, overwhelmingly made up of men, does not represent “the public at large” and that he plans to promote women in future.
Johnson had a child with his partner Carrie Symonds last April but Stratton said the PM has a “huge workload” and will not be taking leave.
She told reporters on Monday, which marks International Women’s Day: “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.”
Of the 26 senior ministers attending cabinet, just six are women, and last week Johnson replaced attorney general Suella Braverman, who is taking maternity leave, with Michael Ellis, a move equalities committee chair Caroline Nokes called “disappointing”.
Hinting at an impending reshuffle, Stratton 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.
“He does accept that he would like to improve how representative his cabinet is of the population at large.”
Stratton said Johnson had described himself as “a feminist” during a meeting with female Tory MPs.
She was pressed on numerous articles Johnson has written describing women in a derogatory way, including calling women “fickle”.
One Spectator article saw Johnson describe the children of single mothers “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”.
Stratton said it was “not unreasonable” to ask questions about Johnson’s previous journalism but insisted “the PM is leading the charge” on changing workplaces for women.
She also referenced more female Tory MPs being elected in December 2019 and said the only two female PMs the UK had had were Conservatives.
“There is room for improvement and progress always on many fronts but actually the Conservatives’ record here is not bad,” she said.
Johnson on Monday hosted a virtual roundtable with nine female business leaders.
The PM’s official spokesperson said: “The prime minister has said on numerous occasions that the contribution that women make to the economy is crucial, which is why we provided an unprecedented offer of support to help those sectors they most likely to be employed in.”
Stratton added that during the meeting, he was interested in hearing about more men taking paternity leave.
She said: “Lastly but not least, he was interested to hear on what they had to say about whether enough dads take time off to look after their children.”