If more mums were Cabinet ministers, schools would have re-opened by now

LAST week, not for the first time, I found myself thinking that what Boris Johnson really, really needs is . . . more women in his Cabinet.

Out of the 26 ministers attending the key government meetings, just seven are women.

There are fewer women in the most senior roles since the reshuffle in February and apparently none in the PM’s close circle.

I don’t know the precise domestic circumstances of the men who form Johnson’s immediate circle but I’m pretty sure they are not the main ones overseeing the home schooling of their children, nor the daily task of making sure they are properly fed, clothed and entertained — all at the same time as holding down their job.

And I just can’t help but think that if the many women who are doing just that right now were also dealing with the logistics of how the heck to get schools open again — well, it would have happened by now.

So many of my friends with school-aged children have commented that home- schooling seems to be being seen as “women’s work” even when both parents are working.

In the same way that the task of raising money for the PTA and organising the school fair falls predominantly to women, now that there is a new school-related task for parents — the small matter of home-educating their children — guess who it’s mostly falling to?

You’ve guessed it. Mums.

And when you are responsible for home-educating your children as well as working out how to feed them three meals a day while holding down your job and everything else you used to do before children went to school at home, there is a strong incentive to get those schools open. And quick.

Perhaps less so when someone else is taking care of all that stuff for you.

Getting our classrooms back up and running may well take a bit of lateral thought, because of course it has to be safe to do so. But on the basis we can now pop to Zara or Ikea, surely we can open our schools safely?

Few disagree that lockdown should have included schools, but they need to open as soon as it is safe to do so.

Yes, these things all need proper managing and organising. So why don’t schools ask local business leaders to help them with the logistics and arrangements?

To socially distance safely, we may need to cut class sizes in half and have twice as many classrooms, so why not look to use different spaces, for example empty community halls, empty libraries, empty offices etc.

What about outdoor learning in small groups?

If we cut classrooms by half we will need twice as many teachers.
So how about encouraging unemployed graduates to work as teaching assistants?

Or asking retired teachers to come out of retirement, just as many nurses did at the beginning of the pandemic.

You know you can find the solution when it’s your problem to solve. Which is why any government and any Cabinet should be as representational of “real life” as possible, which is why we need more women advising the Prime Minister.


That said, no doubt many women just don’t fancy a life in politics. When you look at the abuse, death treats, and sexism they face, who can blame them.

But unless there are people from all walks of life — including women — in the Cabinet, then the issues that affect real people will not be properly tackled or solved.

Just look at the incredible effect that some of the world’s female leaders have had when they’ve acted swiftly and decisively in the face of Covid-19.

Germany’s Angela Merkel has kept deaths in her country down to just 107 per million — compared to 626 per million in the UK.

New Zealand’s inspiring Jacinda Ardern has overseen a remarkable response to the pandemic which involved a rapid, draconian lockdown.

Only 22 people died there. She has been widely praised for her strength in leadership.

These daily UK Government press briefings have made it all too clear that we are crying out for more women at the helm.

The steady stream of menfielding questions on the topics of the day has been alarming. Priti Patel’s appearances could be counted on one hand.

It does make you wonder whether we’d be in a healthier position if more women had been given more prominence in Boris’s Cabinet.

I think we would be.

Stealing the show

Until recently, many people knew Maya Jama as the girlfriend of rapper Stormzy, but they broke up as a couple last year.

What people are now gradually realising is that she has had a fantastic career in her own right – and she proved it last week when she stole the show while co-presenting Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer on BBC1.

And it wasn’t because her low-cut top, inset, raised a few eyebrows, though certainly not mine.

As she rightly pointed out, she can dress how she pleases.

She stole the show because she is good at what she does and is engaging.

At the age of 25 she has already done a stint on MTV, DJing on Rinse FM, a job on Radio 1, and now she is presenting Saturday night TV.

And if it weren’t for Covid-19 she would be acting in her first film around about now too.

Plus, as a sideline she is launching a skincare range and has a mysterious big project brewing – rumoured by some to be Strictly Come Dancing.

In fact, she said in an interview this week that lockdown is the first time since she was 16 that she has had such an extended rest (although she’s hardly been sitting on her laurels – she managed to use it to buy her first house).

All of this would be impressive for any 25-year-old but way more so when you know that Maya’s father was in and out of prison for much of her childhood. And not only that – in 2011 when she was 16, her then boyfriend, Rico Gordon, was killed in a shooting.

These are the kind of life experiences that can lead young people down a very different track to the one that Maya has put herself on, and for that alone she deserves our admiration.

But really we should admire her solely because she is so good at what she does, and such a brave and eloquent voice for her generation.

Bundle of Ferdy joy

Kate Ferdinand has announced she is pregnant and expecting her first child with husband of nine months Rio.

It really could not happen to a nicer or more deserving couple, as evidenced by the fact that when they told Rio’s three children – Lorenz, 13, Tate, 11, and nine-year-old Tia – the youngsters jumped up and down with joy.

That is the reaction of children who have been made to feel happy, secure and, above all, loved by their father and his new wife, despite having gone through the pain of losing their mother.

Kate put the video on Instagram with the caption: “The crazy house is about to get a little bit crazier . . . every time I watch this it makes me cry, the best reaction. Baby Ferdy, we are all so excited to meet you.”

Good luck to them.

Foreign aid

Finally, good news: Our foreign aid is being changed and the Department for International Development merged with the Foreign Office.

About bloody time.

This is an opportunity to be seized.

If we think carefully about how to spend the money in the right way, we can achieve a great deal of good in this country – and God knows we need that right now.

Normal to shop, minus PJs

I am sure I’m not the only one having mixed feelings about shops reopening and the huge step back towards “normality” that we all took this week.

On the one hand it feels like a huge relief.

Thank goodness things are moving again.

On the other, I’m a bit worried about how to get out of my pyjamas, start wearing make-up and navigate my working wardrobe again.

On balance, though, I’m excited for us to all start doing what we can to get the economy growing again.

Talking of shops reopening, I didn’t enjoy the level of scorn being heaped by people on social media on to the huge queues outside Primark stores, which re-opened on Monday.

I think before they are so judgmental they should stop for a minute and consider that many people do not have credit cards so cannot shop online.

But not only that – say what you like about Primark clothes, one thing they are is cheap.

Families with kids who have grown out of their gear over lockdown couldn’t wait to get in there to grab what they needed, and there was a distinctly snobbish element to some people’s judgment.

They should think before they speak.

Reese Witherspoon

Photos of Reese Witherspoon running in a baseball cap with her face concealed by a mask made me realise celebs everywhere – especially those with lockdown hair and faces that might need a bit of  TLC – are seeing this season’s new must-have accessory as an opportunity to conceal a multitude of sins.

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