Boris Johnson has confirmed his intention to stand in Uxbridge. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Boris Johnson intends to stand in Uxbridge and South Ruislip

The Mayor of London, who surprised no one earlier this month by announcing he'd return to parliament, will seek to stand in Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

The Mayor of London, who announced earlier this month that he would – in spite of denying it at least 17 times in the past four years – stand to be an MP in 2015, has confirmed his target seat: the west London suburban constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

He told the Evening Standard:

“I am sure there will be plenty of excellent candidates and I look forward to making my case to the association.”

It was widely assumed Uxbridge would be one of Johnson's choices upon announcing his intention to stand again, so the news is not really surprising. The incumbent, Conservative MP Sir John Randall, is standing down in 2015, and it is a safe Tory seat, with a 11,216 majority.

The Standard reports Randall's comments from earlier this month discussing Uxbridge as Johnson's potential seat:

“If he got into the final three or four he couldn’t rely on just getting in because he is Boris. He will have to give a good speech...

“He will have to prove he is not just coming to use it just to get into Parliament. I think he understands this.

“If he just turned up and made a not-thought-about-it-much sort of speech that wouldn’t go down well.”

Assuming Johnson's selected as the constituency's Tory candidate, it won't be an easy ride for him. As my colleague George Eaton pointed out following Johnson's decision to stand, Heathrow airport is one of the west London constituency's biggest employers. It is also the airport Johnson has called on to be closed down. He said last year that the closure of both Britain and Europe's largest airport would be a "fantastic opportunity for London" to develop a new garden city or royal borough. Johnson has spoken repeatedly against Heathrow, championing for years his alternative plan, based in the Thames Estuary, for expanding the UK's airport capacity expansion: "Boris Island".

Residents have already started voicing their fears about their potential future representative's negative stance towards what is not only a world-renowned airport, but also their main local business and employment hub.

However, Johnson's ability to bounce back, at zip-wire speed, from his past stances is one of his (rather dubious) political qualities, and it may be the same with Heathrow. An insider at the airport's HQ told me that the Mayor and Heathrow's bigwigs sat down for lunch together in a sort of act of unity against their common enemy, Gatwick and the airport "constellation" model, before the Howard Davies airport commission was about to deliver its aviation expansion shortlist at the end of last year. I'm sure Johnson will employ his skills of diplomacy with equal aptitude, and disregard for his former beliefs, this time round.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Leaving the cleaning to someone else makes you happier? Men have known that for centuries

Research says avoiding housework is good for wellbeing, but women have rarely had the option.

If you want to be happy, there is apparently a trick: offload the shitwork onto somebody else. Hire cleaner. Get your groceries delivered. Have someone else launder your sheets. These are the findings published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but it’s also been the foundation of our economy since before we had economics. Who does the offloading? Men. Who does the shitwork? Women.

Over the last 40 years, female employment has risen to almost match the male rate, but inside the home, labour sticks stubbornly to old patterns: men self-report doing eight hours of housework a week, while women slog away for 13. When it comes to caring for family members, the difference is even more stark: men do ten hours, and women 23.

For your average heterosexual couple with kids, that means women spend 18 extra hours every week going to the shops, doing the laundry, laying out uniform, doing the school run, loading dishwashers, organising doctors' appointments, going to baby groups, picking things up, cooking meals, applying for tax credits, checking in on elderly parents, scrubbing pots, washing floors, combing out nits, dusting, folding laundry, etcetera etcetera et-tedious-cetera.

Split down the middle, that’s nine hours of unpaid work that men just sit back and let women take on. It’s not that men don’t need to eat, or that they don’t feel the cold cringe of horror when bare foot meets dropped food on a sticky kitchen floor. As Katrine Marçal pointed out in Who Cooked Adam Smiths Dinner?, men’s participation in the labour market has always relied on a woman in the background to service his needs. As far as the majority of men are concerned, domestic work is Someone Else’s Problem.

And though one of the study authors expressed surprise at how few people spend their money on time-saving services given the substantial effect on happiness, it surely isn’t that mysterious. The male half of the population has the option to recruit a wife or girlfriend who’ll do all this for free, while the female half faces harsh judgement for bringing cover in. Got a cleaner? Shouldn’t you be doing it yourself rather than outsourcing it to another woman? The fact that men have even more definitively shrugged off the housework gets little notice. Dirt apparently belongs to girls.

From infancy up, chores are coded pink. Looking on the Toys “R” Us website, I see you can buy a Disney Princess My First Kitchen (fuchsia, of course), which is one in the eye for royal privilege. Suck it up, Snow White: you don’t get out of the housekeeping just because your prince has come. Shop the blue aisle and you’ll find the Just Like Home Workshop Deluxe Carry Case Workbench – and this, precisely, is the difference between masculine and feminine work. Masculine work is productive: it makes something, and that something is valuable. Feminine work is reproductive: a cleaned toilet doesn’t stay clean, the used plates stack up in the sink.

The worst part of this con is that women are presumed to take on the shitwork because we want to. Because our natures dictate that there is a satisfaction in wiping an arse with a woman’s hand that men could never feel and money could never match. That fiction is used to justify not only women picking up the slack at home, but also employers paying less for what is seen as traditional “women’s work” – the caring, cleaning roles.

It took a six-year legal battle to secure compensation for the women Birmingham council underpaid for care work over decades. “Don’t get me wrong, the men do work hard, but we did work hard,” said one of the women who brought the action. “And I couldn’t see a lot of them doing what we do. Would they empty a commode, wash somebody down covered in mess, go into a house full of maggots and clean it up? But I’ll tell you what, I would have gone and done a dustman’s job for the day.”

If women are paid less, they’re more financially dependent on the men they live with. If you’re financially dependent, you can’t walk out over your unfair housework burden. No wonder the settlement of shitwork has been so hard to budge. The dream, of course, is that one day men will sack up and start to look after themselves and their own children. Till then, of course women should buy happiness if they can. There’s no guilt in hiring a cleaner – housework is work, so why shouldn’t someone get paid for it? One proviso: every week, spend just a little of the time you’ve purchased plotting how you’ll overthrow patriarchy for good.

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.