Ruth Davidson and the politics of pregnancy

In the early days of The Independent, when the newspaper was self-consciously serious to the point of being mildly priggish, Royal events were frequently relegated to the news in brief column. This week, nodding to those sunnier days for The Independent, the happy arrival of the Duchess of Cambridge’s third child was greeted by the headline “woman gives birth to baby boy”. Well, indeed.

It is tempting to treat the news that Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party, is pregnant as a matter of equally trivial non-news news. After all, as Davidson said herself in the statement she posted on Twitter announcing this cheerful development “I’m simply doing what thousands of working women do every year: having a child, taking some time off, and then returning to work soon after”. Indeed, again.

“In the meantime” she added, “it is business as usual”. I cannot imagine that any of Davidson’s constituents in Edinburgh, nor many of her supporters in the country at large, believe that her commitment to her political life will be diminished by her pregnancy. And yet it seems mildly dispiriting that she should feel it necessary to stress that her longer-term plans have not changed.

To put it another way, it would be considered a surprise if a male politician felt the need to make such a statement and, of course, I do not recall David Cameron having to do so when he and Samantha had a child while, you may remember, Cameron was serving as prime minister. The rules, which is to say the conventions, remain different for female politicians. That’s something Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, discovered after she announced her own pregnancy earlier this year. As she said, “I’m pregnant, not incapacitated”.

Equally, no-one thinks to ask male politicians who do not have children if this says anything notable about them or marks them out as unusual. You do not find magazines running cover stories on “The Rise of the Childless Man” in the manner in which, for instance, the likes of Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon…

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