WITH Boris Johnson's unrelenting Churchillian war imagery woven through his speeches and the continued romanticising of Brexit statehood, the Conservatives are a party of nostalgia.

Given the Prime Minister can't spirit himself back to the halcyon days of Winston's reign, when chaps were chaps and women knew their place, the government is doing the next best thing and using 1950s mores to publicise coronavius regulations in good old England.

Coronavirus has shone a harsh light on the divisions of household labour between men and women and so it seems especially crass that a Stay Home, Save Lives campaign might be based on the notion of women staying at home and doing the housework.

And yet, an advertising campaign did just that. Of four images of people doing their civic duty and staying at home, three show women caring for children, home schooling and mopping a floor. The fourth shows a man relaxing on a sofa, his arm around his wife and child.

The mopping is the most affronting. Not only is this peak drudge work but the mother in the picture is assisted by her daughter. Mother's little helper indeed.

After some predictable outrage, the advert was pulled from the government's social media channels with a spokesman saying it does "not reflect" its "view on women".

Doesn't it? Let's ask Rishi Sunak. In a statement this week to the Treasury, the chancellor said we "owe mums everywhere an enormous debt of thanks" for their additional labour during the pandemic.

Is a thank you enough or could perhaps Mr Sunak have a think about what else mothers might want. Say, adequate maternity pay and leave, increased benefits, the end of the two child cap and accessible, affordable childcare.

If we cast our minds back to November last year, when plans were being hatched for the Christmas period, a national newspaper reported that the Westminster government was afraid to say no to an extended festive relaxation of regulations due to fears of a "mutiny of mums".

Is this all the result of a government packed with men suffering from nanny issues? Do any of them have meaningful, equitable relationships with women?

The "mutiny of mums" narrative was a particularly odd one to float, as though the cabinet is, at heart, a collection of small boys in short trousers afraid of being put over mummy's knee.

It can't be that they were scared of a mutiny at the ballot box, given the aforementioned failings in pay, benefits and childcare. If a politician had any genuine concerns about mothers organising politically, these things would be the source of worry.

Not that mums might revolt over the lack of a chance to slave in the kitchen for eight hours, perfecting a turkey and trimmings feast for ungrateful in-laws and even more ungrateful weans.

Global data from UN Women suggests the coronavirus pandemic could roll back gender equality by 25 years, which isn't enough to take us back to the 1950s Tory pinnacle, but is undoubtedly a move in the wrong direction.

As schools have closed and the working landscape radically altered, it is falling to women to carry out significantly more domestic chores and family care. Pre-pandemic, for every one unpaid hour of work done by men, three was done by women.

According to UN Women, that figure has increased. More women are dropping out of the labour market than men to take on caring roles, in part because the gender pay gap means it's more financially viable in two-parent families for the man to continue working.

The Fawcett Society said a third of working mothers reported having lost work or hours due to a lack of childcare during the pandemic, this figure rising to 44% for black, Asian and minority ethnic mothers.

The women's rights charity also reports that, while both men and women have done more childcare since the start of the crisis last Match, the gap between the amount of time mothers and fathers spent with their children increased.

Here, the Scottish Government, as part of its early years and childhood focus, has committed to giving 1140 hours of free childcare to all three and four year olds, and some eligible two years olds but the pandemic has delayed the roll out of the scheme. Some local authorities report being able to honour the commitment while others are lagging behind.

While the 1140 hours is a welcome step, as schools and nurseries are closed, the default is women picking up the slack with childcare and home schooling.

So, yes, Mr Sunak is right to acknowledge women have taken on the burdens of home and hearth. But he is wrong to normalise that default.

The more that housework and childcare is framed as "women's work" the more difficult it becomes to encourage men to take on their fair share. Of course, plenty of men do take on domestic roles equal to their female partners but they are the exception to the rule.

The normalising of "women's work" is seen in the low uptake of shared parental leave. In 2019 just 2% of eligible couples made use of shared parental leave, five years after the scheme was introduced.

Fewer companies enhance paternity pay than maternity pay, so it makes little financial sense for fathers, when earning the greater share of the household income, to take parental leave.

Unlike other countries, where paternity leave is encouraged, or even mandated, in the UK dads staying home with baby is still seen as outwith socially accepted norms. Improved paid leave for fathers needs to be embedded in law, and the length of parental leave extended.

Women have had to fight for their one year maternity leave - it is absolutely understandable that they don't want to give that up by sharing it with their partner. Instead of splitting 12 months between couples, 18 months or even 24 would be far more equitable.

Post-pandemic, flexible working needs to be considered a norm also - we fit life around work when it should be, wherever possible, the other way round.

Women don't need pats on the head, Rishi Sunak, or rounds of applause, we need positive and forward thinking steps. There are plenty of little helpers for mother; time to cut the platitudes and put them into action.