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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Marsanu

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt answer CYW's questions

Conservative Leadership candidates, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have set out their positions and policy ideas on a set of women’s issues. In a unique interview format, both candidates answered the same set of questions on women’s policy matters, enabling voters to compare like for like answers from both candidates.

Key areas of policy the candidates agreed on included compulsory teaching of sex and relationships in schools, including LGBT+ relationships and a commitment to reducing carbon emissions in order to meet the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Issues on which the candidates differed included period poverty: Boris Johnson pledged to scrap the “tampon tax” when Britain leaves the European Union. Jeremy Hunt wouldn’t commit to scrapping the tax but acknowledged that period poverty is a problem and pledged to take steps to address it.

Jeremy Hunt did promise that he would ensure that Maria Miller’s Domestic Bill gets through Parliament, regardless of how Brexit negotiations are going. Boris Johnson was less committal and said: “I hope very much [that] we can get it through.”

Both candidates recognised that the political arena has been off-putting for women, with Boris Johnson calling it a “kind of animal house” and Jeremy Hunt saying: “I think you do need to understand the glass ceilings that have been there for a very long time - in particular, I think public schools, boys, like myself were brought up to be very assertive and pushy and confident. That's not a bad thing. It doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be the best minister.”

Both praised “talented” Conservative women MPs, Johnson said: “I will do everything I can within reason to promote women to the government I lead” and Hunt also said that he would “like to have more women cabinet ministers.”

Hunt and Johnson differed on approaches to close the gender pay-gap, whilst both appreciating that it is a critical issue that needs tackling. Hunt favoured exploring policies such as increased flexi-working and job sharing whilst Johnson’s primary focus was to lower the tax burden for women. The candidates both also committed to do more to address the issue of childcare costs, admitting that the high costs of childcare in the UK are a barrier to gender equality.

The interviews were conducted by Fleur Butler, Chairman of the Conservative Women’s Organisation and Ella Robertson, who commented

“Both candidates showed a solid understanding of issues affecting women and committed to take action to tackle gender inequality in politics, in the work place and in society. Whoever the next Prime Minister will be, both men have shown that the Conservative Party is a modern, feminist organisation which is committed to equality.”

This is the only interview that both candidates have agreed to which is exclusively focused on women’s issues. The BBC reported on 11 July that fewer than half of voters’ ballots have been returned so far.

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