Should David Cameron take his full paternity leave?

The PM is a dad again. But should the most powerful man in Britain take his two weeks off?

Last Updated: 16 May 2011

The early arrival of David Cameron's fourth child - only the third baby to be born to a serving Prime Minister (after Tony Blair and Lord Russell in 1849, apparently) - poses an interesting question. Although Parliament is in recess at the moment, and the Camerons are away in Cornwall (leaving Nick Clegg in nominal charge at Downing Street), the Prime Minister is never really off duty. And given how much the Government has on its plate at the moment, you could argue that he hasn't got time to be away from his desk. Yet taking his full paternity leave entitlement would be a significant boost for the cause of new fathers across the UK...

In some ways it would be great to see Cameron take his full two weeks. You couldn't get a clearer sign from the Government that it's serious about coming up with family-friendly policies - and that it's fully embracing the world of 21st century work, with men playing an ever-greater role in child-raising. Equally, if he doesn't take it, it might encourage some employers to see it as an optional extra ('if it's good enough for the Prime Minister...').

Handily, Parliament isn't back from its hols until the 6th September, so the PM has a bit of breathing space (in fact, the timing is rather fortuitous, in some ways). And with Clegg currently in Downing Street fending off questions about today's IFS report (a row that is much more damaging to the Lib Dems than the Tories), Cameron is probably quite relieved to be out of the firing line. (He could even position a longer absence as a signal of confidence in Clegg, thus boosting the Coalition.)

On the other hand, if he was to take the full two weeks of paternity leave (to which he, like all new Dads, is presumably entitled), he'd miss the re-opening of Parliament, plus no doubt various other high-powered political engagements. And some will feel that given the scale of the problems facing the Government - not least the preparations for the forthcoming spending review - he needs to be slaving away at his desk. Like it or not, everything you do as Prime Minister is a political decision.

The positive news is that it sounds like the PM will definitely take some paternity leave - a clear sign of progress, since there was presumably a time when it wouldn't even have been considered. Now it's more a case of how much. And although we very much doubt he'll take his complete entitlement (or turn off his phone in the interim), we'd be interested to know your thoughts: would he be doing the world of work a favour by taking the full whack? 

In today's bulletin:

Was the Budget regressive? Coalition at odds with top think-tank
Admiral rues advertising woes as flounders
Should David Cameron take his full paternity leave?
Gold demand soars as Europeans get a thing for bling
Lady Geek: A lesson in fearlessness with Eileen Gittins

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