Male world leaders should take paternity leave, Ed Miliband tells Julia Gillard

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London: Male prime ministers have been urged to take parental leave by former British Labour leader Ed Miliband, who told former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard it would be an important step in highlighting the valuable role of fathers.
The comments from Miliband, a senior frontbencher in the British opposition, put pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is expecting his seventh child within weeks and in recent days attracted questions about his wellbeing after he gave a rambling speech to business leaders.
Former leader of the British Labour Party Ed Miliband speaks to former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard.Credit:Zoom
Miliband, who was speaking to Gillard for her London-based Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, is advocating for new fathers to be offered 12 weeks’ paid paternity leave as one way of helping break through traditional gender roles.
When asked if the world would ever see a male prime minister take parental leave after welcoming a new child into the family, Miliband said it should not be an impossible idea.
“These things are impossible until they happen and then they seem absolutely normal.
“Prime ministers have deputies – why not?
Jacinda Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford with their daughter Neve in August 2018.Credit:Derek Henderson
“It would send a signal about what matters and what’s valuable and the role of dads.
“It may be hard to imagine at the current moment but I don’t think it’s at all impossible,” he said.
Britain and New Zealand both have leaders who have welcomed babies while in office. Jacinda Ardern returned to work after taking six weeks’ maternity leave. Then deputy prime minister Winston Peters ran the country in her absence.
Wilfred Johnson, son of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Carrie Johnson visiting Peppa Pig World this week.Credit:CarrielbJohnson/Instagram
Her husband, Clarke Gayford, a television presenter, took more time off his job to be a stay-at-home dad.
In Britain, Johnson’s third wife, Carrie, is about to give birth to their second child, his seventh, in coming weeks.
Their first child was born last April, just after the Prime Minister recovered from his near-death battle against COVID-19.
He did not take paternity leave, citing his workload as the country battled its devastating first wave of the pandemic.
However, his marriage to Carrie has seen him take a more hands-on role with parenting compared with his children to other mothers whom he rarely, if ever, mentioned in public.
On Monday this week, Johnson caused alarm when he lost his place in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry and riffed for several minutes about visiting Peppa Pig world with his son.
The speech was pilloried as shambolic and prompted questions about the Prime Minister’s own wellbeing.
Miliband said balancing fatherhood and political leadership was not easy and that he himself had done it “badly”.
He is married to Justine Thornton, a High Court judge and the pair have two sons, born in 2009 and 2010.
At the time of the birth of their first son, he was climate change secretary in the lead-up to the Copenhagen summit. When his second was born, he was opposition leader.
He said he took parental leave both times “which actually did lead to some grumbling”.
“Now I think the grumbling may have been more about my leadership than my paternity leave but it’s difficult, it’s really hard, this,” he said.
“If you think about this thing I’m saying – that people were grumbling and so on – I expect the same would be true today.
“I don’t think that shared parental leave, the system that we’ve got, has sort of put on the map that fathers have got this entitlement to more than two weeks.
“But anyway I didn’t handle it well,” he said of managing the work-home balance.
He said that, while losing the 2015 election was “not fun”, it was a good outcome for his children as they had been able to spend time with him that they would not have been able to had he been elected prime minister.
Britain’s shared parental leave scheme allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay between them.
The call for paternity leave comes as several British politicians demanded a change in parliamentary rules on Wednesday after an MP was told she couldn’t bring her three-month-old baby into the House of Commons.
Labour Party legislator Stella Creasy said she had received a letter from Commons authorities after she took her infant son Pip to a debate.
“There are barriers to getting mums involved in politics, and I think that damages our political debate,” Creasy told the BBC.
with AP
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