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Has our next PM actually got women's backs? GLAMOUR asks Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson about abortion rights, equal pay and whether they are REALLY feminists...

Jeremy replied in full. But Boris, why won’t you tell us what you really think?

08 Jul 2019

On 22 July, Britain’s next Prime Minister will be revealed. We might not be able to vote ourselves (it’s all in the hands of the Tory party members – no pressure), but that doesn’t mean we don’t care. In fact, we care a hell of a lot because so many aspects of our lives – from whether the government believes that we have the right to make decisions about our own bodies, and how much tax we pay on our tampons to how much money we earn compared to men – will be in the hands of Boris or Jeremy. This is why GLAMOUR set out to interview both candidates on the women’s issues that really matter to GLAMOUR readers, and in fact all women. We wanted them to define exactly how we’ll fare under their leadership.

Boris and Jeremy both agreed to an email interview with GLAMOUR. So far, so good. Jeremy responded in full, only slightly dodging a couple of specifics – like whether he believes the embryo’s right comes above the right of the mother. But when we sent Boris’s team the questions (the very same ones we submitted to Jeremy’s team), they stopped replying. We chased. We chased again. And we chased again. Finally, team Boris responded – with a couple of paragraphs of ‘background information’ on Johnson’s ‘views and record’.

So while Jeremy talked to us about juggling parenting with work, his views on abortion and women’s rights, unfortunately we aren’t able to enlighten you about Boris. Understandably, this left us questioning why he won't be drawn into commenting women’s rights.

So does Boris have something to hide? Or does he simply not care? And does Jeremy really have our backs? We’ll have to leave that up to you to decide.

Here’s every question we asked both candidates, with Jeremy’s responses in full and the statement that Boris’s team sent over.

GLAMOUR: What specifically does feminism mean to you?

JEREMY HUNT: I am proud to call myself a feminist. There should be no gender disparity in any area of human endeavour. To me, feminism is all about overcoming historic injustice to ensure that women have the same opportunities as men to thrive and succeed in 21st century Britain. It means celebrating the differences between the sexes, while fighting against inequalities.

GLAMOUR: Who has been your most significant female role model and why?

JEREMY HUNT: Nadia Murad is the most inspiring woman I have met recently and she has been hugely significant for my work at the Foreign Office. Her book The Last Girl details her captivity at the hands of Daesh, where people from her religious minority – and women in particular – were treated with inhuman cruelty. She is the model of perseverance, who showed me again the importance of standing up for oppressed people around the world, and the value in having an international system built on rules, rather than assuming might equals right. I’ve sought to defend that system every day as Foreign Secretary.

GLAMOUR: Why should women today trust you, and vote for you, when the time comes? Please give at least two specific examples.

JEREMY HUNT: I have a lot of experience in tough jobs at the top of Government, and I think we need a serious and experienced leader at such a serious time for our country. I also believe we need someone who is focused on bringing the country together, young and old, north and south, remain and leave. In terms of specific examples, I’ve fought hard for human rights at the Foreign Office, getting the warring parties round the table in Yemen and fighting for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from her unjust imprisonment in Iran. I also focused on making maternity care better and safer when I was Health Secretary, which led to the stillbirth rate coming down.

GLAMOUR: How are our readers’ (women aged 18-35) lives going to change for the better under your government?

JEREMY HUNT: The big challenge facing younger people now is housing: I will deliver homes to help 1.5million young people get onto the housing ladder, taking advantage of the massive hikes in land value that property developers currently benefit from when planning permission is granted. I will also deliver change to the current injustice of sky-high interest rates on tuition fee debt – the current 6% rate is unjustifiable.

But most importantly my plans to turbo charge the economy will benefit everyone. However, it is crucial that we make sure that our economy improves conditions for women and, as Prime Minister, I will be reviewing the enforcement of gender pay legislation. I would also introduce protection from redundancy for women during pregnancy and extend maternity leave to six months, post birth. I would also go a step further and look at whether women are facing discrimination after miscarriages.

GLAMOUR: In what ways, in your opinion, will women’s lives be better or worse once we leave the EU? Please give two specific examples. What are the positives for women from Brexit that we might not know about?

JEREMY HUNT: It really depends on whether we get it right or wrong. With no deal, I think the economic impact could be challenging for everyone. Get it right and it could be the catalyst for economy renewal that we all need.

Britain has always been a forerunner of women’s rights, in the fields of education, property rights, politics and the workplace and it will continue to be so when we are no longer under the constraints of EU legislation.

Brexit will be an opportunity, particularly for women who have been frustrated by regulations such as the ‘tampon tax’, forcing them to pay VAT on tampons as if they were luxury items. Paternity leave is another benefit I hope to drive forward, post-Brexit.

However, it is important that we come together as a country for future choices. All benefits and rights must be discussed after Brexit, not before, but we need to win the support of our institutions and work with them. If we do, I am confident our historic tradition of being at the cutting edge of women’s rights will be upheld.

GLAMOUR: When it comes to women’s rights and equality, what personal achievements are you most proud of? Please give a specific example of the changes you have made, the positive impact and your personal feelings on these achievements.

JEREMY HUNT: I am proudest of my work during my tenure as Health Secretary. It was my honour to be the longest serving holder of the office and I was able to put through legislation, such as the aforementioned policies related to women’s health, such as breast cancer survival rates, maternity safety and perinatal mental health.

Being in the role for so long gave me an incredible insight into the wonderful work our medical staff do. I have incredible respect for everyone working in our hospitals and feel honoured to have been able to contribute.

GLAMOUR: Are you going to drive through Theresa May’s plan to give men 12-week paternity leave?

JEREMY HUNT: Yes absolutely – it’s a vital step for men, women and children, as well. But I’d also go further and ensure flexible leave is a guaranteed right from day one of employment.

GLAMOUR: What are you specifically going to do to ensure the gender pay gap closes at a faster rate – further to the mandatory pay audits that are already in place?

JEREMY HUNT: It really frustrates me when I hear that still, in 21st century Britain, there is so much evidence on women often getting paid less than their male counterparts, despite doing the same jobs. This is why the mandatory pay audits are so important in highlighting that there is an issue, and it is an issue we should combat quickly with intelligent and effective policies. We also need to do more to tackle the disparity in pensions between men and women.

As Health Secretary, I launched an independent review to look at the reasons behind the gender pay gap in the medical profession. The study found that one of the main reasons there were more men than women at the top of the career ladder, included the time women have to take off during maternity leave.

Under my leadership, I will introduce more extended paternity leave for men, which would take the pressure off women to interrupt their careers. This would also change the way women are perceived by employers and level the gender related playing field in the work place.

GLAMOUR: Do you believe women should be taxed on tampons? Would you consider removing this tax? What efforts are you going to make to tackle period poverty in London?

JEREMY HUNT: It is baffling that something as essential as a tampon can be classified as a luxury item. I absolutely believe tampons should not be taxed and I would look at how we could tackle period poverty in London and across the nation. As Prime Minister, I will work with charities, retailers and manufacturers to deal with the problem, from an economical and environmental viewpoint also.

GLAMOUR: How will you juggle being PM with being a father?

JEREMY HUNT: Truthfully, I am not in an easy job for balancing work and home life. I try very hard to prioritise time with my children and live up to my responsibilities at home. However, I am hugely indebted to my amazing wife.

GLAMOUR: You both have daughters: what women’s rights issues do they berate you about the most? What worries keep you up at night about their futures?

JEREMY HUNT: It doesn’t keep me up at night, but I do worry about the impact of technology and the way technology will change the lives of all my children. Cyberbullying, and the influence of social media on body image, is something both girls and boys are increasingly experiencing with the advance of technology, and as a father, I worry about how this might affect my children and naturally I want to protect them from it in the best way I can.

Whilst technology and the advance of AI in particular will bring many benefits to their futures, it will also drastically transform the way we live and affect their working lives. The jobs of tomorrow will be very different from the jobs of today and I want to make sure that the country they receive from us will provide them with the best tools to thrive and grow.

GLAMOUR: Did you take paternity leave – and if you were to have more children, would you take shared parental leave this time? And for how long?

JEREMY HUNT: Unfortunately not, as MPs are not employees and there were no provisions in place at the time. However, I support the recently launched campaign to allow parliamentarians to take paternity leave, as I believe strongly that parenting is a joint responsibility.

GLAMOUR: Parts of the US are going back to Handmaid’s Tale territory with their abortion laws – can you assure us that this will never happen in the UK? Will you, today, assure GLAMOUR readers that you will rule out either commissioning or allowing any review of abortion limits under your government?

JEREMY HUNT: Yes. I have guaranteed that as Prime Minster I will not make any changes to abortion rules.

GLAMOUR: You’ve said your personal beliefs are that the abortion limit should be reduced to 12 weeks and we believe you are entitled to your personal beliefs. But do you believe that you, or any man or government should be entitled to decide on the choices women make with their own bodies?

JEREMY HUNT: Whatever my personal beliefs, I will not seek to change the law as Prime Minister. Of course, women should have the final say over their bodies.

GLAMOUR: Do you believe the embryo’s right comes above the right of the mother?

JEREMY HUNT: These are matters of conscience and I respect the fact that other people have very different views. Indeed, that is exactly why these matters are matters for free votes in the House of Commons.

GLAMOUR: The current government rejected 18 proposals to improve the fashion industry’s environmental impact. Do you agree with this decision? GLAMOUR believes we should be paying a lot more attention to the future of the planet – and legislation is needed to ensure this happens. What efforts will you make as PM to help the UK live a more sustainable lifestyle?

JEREMY HUNT: I am fully committed to safeguarding the environment and I believe that Brexit can represent a wonderful opportunity to invest in green issues. I am very enthusiastic about the 25-year roadmap which has recently been outlined, and if I am Prime Minister, I will see to it that legislation is in place to protect our air quality, nature recovery, waste and resource efficiency and water resource management.

GLAMOUR: What have you done to protect women from FGM? Will this be a focus of yours as PM?

JEREMY HUNT: FGM is one of the most extreme manifestations of gender inequality. It is a human rights violation that can result in a lifetime of physical, psychological and emotional suffering. Protecting women from FGM is of vital importance to this country and the values it represents.

The UK is proud to support and accelerate the Africa-led movement to end FGM. Indeed, under my leadership, the FCO created a £50m UK aid package –

the biggest single investment worldwide to date by any international donor – to tackle this issue across the most-affected countries in Africa.

We are making progress. Today a girl is about one-third less likely to be cut than 30 years ago. But we have reached a critical juncture – global efforts need to go further and faster because population growth means that if progress is not accelerated, the number of girls undergoing FGM will increase.

As Prime Minister, I will ensure that FGM continues to be a key focus and I pledge my support for initiatives and fundraising projects working directly with communities, grassroots campaigners and supporting doctors, nurses and midwife to end FGM and care for survivors.

GLAMOUR: What are your views on animal rights / laws in this country? Do you feel they go far enough to protect animals? Would you make any changes as PM? Please give two specific examples of changes you’d like to make.

JEREMY HUNT: Well I stand with my friend and colleague Michael Gove on this one, when he states that we are a nation of animal lovers and that animals are sentient beings which feel pain. In the field of animal rights, too, Brexit represents an opportunity for us to take a more targeted approach to animal rights and ensure that certain practices which cause pain can be eliminated.

Britain has always been a leader in animal welfare but until now has been prevented by EU regulations from banning live exports to Europe.

As Health Secretary in 2014, I called for the conditions in chicken farms to be looked into and this is something I would like to resolve as Prime Minister.

Secondly, the direct effect of the environmental policies I would implement would vastly improve the habitat of marine life. I want to put an end to the plight of whales eating plastic bags.

The ‘background information on Boris’s views and record’ that his team provided GLAMOUR

Boris demonstrated his commitment to delivering on women’s issues as Mayor of London. One of his priorities was a strategy to eliminate violence against women. He set out a bold agenda to combat the evils of FGM, improve support services for victims of sexual and domestic abuse and to improve access to the justice system.

Boris expanded Rape Crisis provision and created a specialist unit in the Metropolitan Police to respond to rape and sexual assault. He also created a specialist unit to deal with human trafficking and prostitution.

As Foreign Secretary, he championed education for girls – committing £212million in UK aid money to help one million vulnerable girls across the Commonwealth receive 12 years of quality education by 2030.

If he is elected as Prime Minister, he will build on this record and finish the programmes he began, pushing for greater equality in our society.

Where there are barriers – be they in pay, discrimination against women on maternity leave, or the hidden inequalities in the health system – Boris has said that his government will call them out and take action.