It turns out that Cameron’s pro-marriage rhetoric, which in turn sparked more of the same from the Government, has caused a split in the Cabinet.
The Guardian reports that Education Secretary Alan Johnson is set to give a speech next week, distancing himself from the talk of tax breaks for married couples and the conclusion that all those brought up without fathers are destined to a life of crime. Harriet Harman, who I like more and more these days, called Cameron’s arguments “Back to Basics in an open-necked shirt”.
Johnson will tell a conference on Tuesday: ‘Family policy must be bias-free – to express it in a more Clintonesque manner, “It’s the parenting, stupid”. Not all children from married couples fare well, and other family structures are not irretrievably doomed to fail.’
He will tell the conference organised by Relate, the relationship counselling organisation: ‘Strong relationships represent the key to successful parenting. And marriage represents the pinnacle of a strong relationship.’ But he will add that tax breaks for marriage would be pointless: ‘Taxation and law cannot create a family: it’s commitment and love.’
However, there is alarm among ministers that the government has been slow to enter the rumbling debate. ‘Frankly Cameron has been allowed to get far, far, too far with this family stuff,’ said one senior minister sympathetic to Brown. ‘He is entrenching a stereotype when loads of kids from one parent families are doing terribly well.’
Johnson will also tell the conference that while a recent report by Unicef, which controversially found Britain’s children fared among the worst in Europe, had shone a light on family issues to claim that society was in deep trouble as a result, ‘is not only gross hyperbole, it’s also wholly inaccurate’.
Armstrong backed up the argument, saying ‘collective moral despair’ over recent tragic events was unnecessary. ‘Our policies have not created a widespread culture of excluded youth, or an “asbo generation”‘. A Cabinet Office source added that tax breaks ‘to bribe couples to stay together’ did not tackle the root causes of social exclusion.
This is great news – so far, Cameron has been able to dominate the agenda, and with his soft-focus efforts to ditch the nasty Tory image, has actually been able to slip in a lot of traditional right wing stuff.
At last, Labour seems to be getting its act together to challenge at least some of these arguments.