Political

Lynne Featherstone vs Steve Hilton on maternity pay

From yesterday’s Observer:

In a wide-ranging interview with the Observer, Featherstone said it was vital the coalition delivered on its family-friendly rhetoric … In a forthright attack on some of the advisers shaping government policy, she criticised the role of Adrian Beecroft, a venture capitalist tasked with reporting to the prime minister on how to cut regulation on business. Beecroft is understood to have recommended a U-turn on government policies on shared parental leave and flexible working.

The proposals, outlined in a white paper, would allow couples greater freedom to co-ordinate maternity and paternity leave. A separate proposal would make it easier to request flexible working hours.

Featherstone told the Observer that Beecroft’s recommendation that the moves should be shelved was not acceptable and would be “swept away”. She also made her feelings clear over a recent “blue sky” proposal from Steve Hilton, the prime minister’s director of strategy, suggesting that the government could scrap maternity pay altogether. Featherstone said: “Well, I might talk about scrapping Steve Hilton.”

As the Telegraph added:

The Prime Minister is now facing a split in Cabinet over the future of the policies.

Along with Mr Hilton, George Osborne and Eric Pickles are understood to be in favour of a roll back while Nick Clegg, Theresa May, Oliver Letwin and Michael Gove fear it could harm attempts to appeal to women voters.

It’s a bit of an old-fashioned oddity (to put it politely) to talk about the electoral impact of family friendly policies only in terms of female voters. Rumour has it that families contain men too and parenting can involve males. But it does also reflect the way the attention of several (male) Conservative and Lib Dem Cabinet members to these issues followed them looking through political polling a few months ago showing the different ways men and women view the government.

Sticking to the government’s proposals on maternity leave is particularly important because, as Rob Blackie wrote earlier this year, there is even a case to argue that they are our most popular policy since the coalition was formed.

As for what Lynne Featherstone said about Steve Hilton, if think think that was acerbic, you should hear what plenty of Liberal Democrats in Whitehall say about him in private, and they are not exactly out of tune with some in Conservative Party ranks…

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