Reform Wants A Parent Back In The Home. Are We Living In The 1950s?

The deputy leader of Reform UK said it's a ‘travesty’ working parents don’t have enough time for their children.'


by Alice Hall |
Updated on

Childcare is big news ahead of the general election on 4 July, with each of the major political parties offering policies that aim to swing over voters.

The latest party to wade into the debate is Reform UK, after their deputy leader Dr David Bull appeared on Sky News to discuss the party's manifesto to offer a more, well, 1950s take on things. Speaking to Sky News' Sophy Rigde, Dr Bull said it's a ‘travesty’ if working parents don’t have enough time for their children if they're working the whole time. He said that Reform believed ‘children do better in stable relationships across the board’ adding ‘in marriage, you know, and that marriage is an important bond, isn't it?’

He continued: 'Because I think what children desperately need is someone at home, and they need someone to be there and support them during that education.’ Rigde then asked ‘Do you think if you're a child with two working parents, that's not a great upbringing for you?’

Dr Bull denied he was suggesting that families with two working parents were not providing a good upbringing for children, responding ‘No… Of course, it's incredibly difficult. And parents have to work because of the cost of living. But actually, the ideal would be to have a parent that is there available when children need them.’

The conversation turned to mothers when Rigde asked Dr Bull to expand on research behind a point in Reform UK’s manifesto, which says the majority of mothers would choose to stay at home more if they could. Dr Bull said the party polled ‘extensively’ adding ‘But I think if you talk to any mother, of course, they want to spend time with their children. They want to see them grow and develop. And if you're spending all your time at work and you don't have enough time with your kids, I think that's a travesty.'

When asked if it ‘damages’ children, Dr Bull said ‘emotionally’ children ‘need support as they grow and develop.’ He added ‘You have to look at why children are now so obsessed with social media […] One of the biggest things we've seen is the rise of anorexia and bulimia in young women and in young boys as well.’

His comments come after Reform UK released their ‘contract’ with voters ahead of the election on 4 July. The document sets out Reform’s plans to support marriage through the tax system and frontload child benefit between the ages of one to four. The party said this would 'give parents the choice to spend more time with their children.’

Rigde broke down key points from the conversation in a helpful thread on X, which has garnered 395.8k views and generated a debate among users in the comments. Many users disagreed with Dr Bull, suggesting his views are outdated and wildly out of touch. One X user wrote ‘Amongst the many many problems with this, it is clear he doesn’t mean parents, He means mothers! Isn’t the easiest answer here just to build them a Time Machine and send them back to the 1950s where they seem to want to stay?’

Another user wrote ‘I’m a home stay mum and my kids aren’t any better than my friends who worked full time. let me speak to “Dr” Bull about motherhood because the last time I looked, he didn’t have a uterus.’

Other users agreed with what Dr Bull was saying. One X user wrote ‘As a woman and a mother of three, I agree with him. Two parents in intensive jobs isn’t healthy for the family no matter how much some want to pretend it is. You can’t do both well and imo you’re in denial if you think you can.’

But it’s hard not to feel concerned that the views put forward by Dr Bull seem to belong in a bygone era, not the modern world. Although he didn’t explicitly state that mothers should be the ones to stay at home, figures show that women are almost always the ones to sacrifice their careers after having children.

Research from the Fawcett Society in 2023 found that, while one in five mothers have considered leaving work because of childcare issues, when it came to dads that figure fell to one in 10. It’s taken decades for women’s careers to be treated as equals to men’s, and, in most cases, they still aren’t. The gender pay gap still exists and, as the figures from The Fawcett Society show, the bulk of caring responsibilities still fall on women.

We might be tempted to ignore Reform’s rhetoric and think of them as a fringe party. But polling data released last Thursday by YouGov suggested Reform UK had overtaken the Tories by one point. The poll has Reform on a national vote share of 19 points, with the Conservatives on 18 and Labour on 37. This is just one poll, though, and the UK’s first past the post system tends to work against smaller parties.

Of course, it’s important to remember that feminism is about choice – if women want to stay at home and be full-time mothers, that is fine and we should never judge anyone for their choice. But it's concerning when an increasingly popular party suggests children suffer if both parents want to go out and work. Where does that leave women? Women are already made to feel bad about so much without being told that building a career could potentially damage their children.

Plus, it's not like many women can afford to quit their jobs in the current crisis when families are more squeezed than ever. Women already bear the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis – they are more likely to be low paid, on zero hours contracts and more likely to have to reduce hours and earnings to manage unpaid caring responsibilities. It shows how out of touch Reform are to be advocating for a parent to quit their jobs right now.

Joeli Brearley, CEO and Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, told Grazia that while they 'welcome' any political party taking an interest in addressing the 'financial challenges' that arise when being a parent, the idea that children suffer when both parents work is 'nonsense.'

'What would be far better for our economy, and for families, is if the Reform Party put forward policy ideas which would genuinely enable families to flourish, whether they work in the home, or outside of it,' she says.

'We would welcome a conversation with Mr Bull to go through the overwhelming evidence that flexible working rights can enable parents to have a successful career and be there for their families. How enhancing parental leave entitlements for dads and partners can have positive benefits for children and relationships, and how good quality childcare closes the attainment gap between the richest and poorest children.'

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us