OK there are bigger stories in the reshuffle, but the tale of Jake Berry is an important one. He quit to spend more time with his family – and really meant that.
Berry was minister for the northern powerhouse. He is also one of Boris Johnson’s oldest allies in the Commons. These days (almost) everyone is the PM’s friend, but not long ago there were only two: Berry and Ben Wallace. So when Berry says he was asked to stay in government, believe him.
And why is he not a minister today? Because he was offered a job that would have taken him abroad a lot when his children are very young; thanks to the arrival of a new baby this month, he and his wife now have three children under three. So faced with a choice of career and kids, he chose the kids.
What’s more, he talked about it, tweeting:
“Family will always come first and I felt unable to accept the offer.”
This matters, and maybe not just for Westminster. Politics is still a stupid long-hours occupation where participants have to choose between work and family. That choice is still not discussed enough and when it is, it’s often in the context of women and the responsibilities of motherhood. Sometimes the conversation about family vs career seems to omit men with children; it is simply assumed that they will forego time with their children, and be content to do so.
Which, of course, isn’t true. Men in politics, as elsewhere, are quite likely to want to spend more time with their children, to worry about the cost their job imposes on their families, even though many of them don’t speak of it in public.