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Nick de Bois MP: Without a strong family policy and message, even the best policy initiatives will flounder

Debois-nickNick de Bois is the Member of Parliament for Enfield North and a Secretary of the 1922 Committee. Follow Nick on Twitter.

Yes, I think it's plainly daft that a couple earning £300,000 a year will get help for childcare. It also plays into the hands of Labour's narrative that the Conservatives are "out of touch", and ultimately detracts from what is a policy that will help millions of low to middle income families get back to work by helping with child care fees.

It is of course frustrating that the politics of such policy announcements are not managed with well thought-out communication strategies so that, frankly, what should be "fringe" arguments don't dominate the narrative. The fact that it is probably cheaper to pay a small group of people on whacking great joint incomes child care vouchers rather than introduce a means tested bureaucracy to exclude them is lost on the public because the case was not made and the politics not addressed.  The fact remains that George Osborne's childcare plans plans will have cheered up an awful lot of young parents on middle to low incomes where both parents want to work.

That we have seemingly angered the stay at home parent, is regrettable but inevitable if policies do not support a clear, robustly-argued vision, namely that Conservatives believe in family and will support family. We need look no further than August 2011 for the most recent evidence as to why family is so important to shaping our future.

Two years on from the riots, last month saw the publication of the formal report into them, After the Riots - which investigated their causes, and reflected on what can be done to build greater social resilience in communities.  The report pointed in part to the role that  parenting and early childhood influences plays in shaping young lives. The Government understand this, and should not fight shy of promoting strong family values across social policy, education and employment policy and, most definitely, through the tax system.

Until then, critics will inevitably pick on one policy announcement after another in isolation, and highlight its weaknesses - if we fail to convince them and the public that we are committed to a series of measures that strengthen and value 'family' as a cornerstone of a stable and indeed progressive society. Without that strong message, all that is happening is that the monetary value of one policy is being compared to another - with the inevitable unflattering response. That the present debate is about mums at home being worth £150 a year whilst working mums are valued at £1200 is just another recent unfortunate example.

By changing the terms of the debate, we will show up Labour's opportunist swipes and bring parent and family groups with us - and not let important policy announcements being dominated by criticisms on the fringes. Measures designed to both ease the pressures on cost of living, help people back into work and above all strengthen and recognise the influence and responsibility of family life should be a powerful legacy of a Conservative-led government.


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