Conservative Diary

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Gove, Miller and Willetts set out an agenda to help children and families

Picture 56 The Daily Mail gives a double page spread to yesterday's focus on the family.  The Mail's Political Editor James Chapman describes the focus as "the most unequivocal backing for the institution of marriage at a Conservative conference for years."  Maria Miller said that it was "madness" that Labour does not use the tax system to support marriage.  She declared that there was "overwhelming" evidence of the benefits to society and children of strong marriages.

"When people make a public commitment to support each other it is right for the tax system to recognise it. Some countries do treat us just as individuals for income tax purposes. That is what they do in Turkey, oh yes, and in Mexico too. Labour may believe in the Turkish-Mexican model but most other advanced Western countries do recognise marriage in the income tax system. That’s what they do in France. That’s what they do in Germany. That’s what they do in the USA. And that’s what we’ll do too."

Although the media focuses on the tax policy the Tory commitment to the family is much broader as platform speeches from Willetts and Maria Miller MP set out.  Other policies mentioned included:

  • The elimination of the couples penalty in the benefits system.
  • More support via voluntary organisations for couples preparing for marriage.
  • 4,000 extra health visitors for couples with very young children - paid for by refocusing the Sure Start budget.
  • Grandparents would gain legal rights to be guardians of children in the event of the death of parents.
  • More funding for voluntary organisations that work with troubled families.
  • Simplification of the benefits system for parents with disabled children.

Picture 40 Yesterday also saw Michael Gove set out his education agenda. He promised to use the first one hundred days of a Conservative government to identify the very worst schools – "the sink schools which have desperately failed our children" – and put headteachers with proven track records of success in control of them.

Michael Gove also announced a right for existing schools to become academy schools with all of the associated freedoms.  Janet Daley welcomed this shift as a return to the era of Grant Maintained Schools:

"Mr Gove is also effectively promising the return of the grant maintained schools by announcing that any existing school would be able to become an academy, and thus declare its independence from the local education authority. The important difference between then and now is that this time the declaration of independence would not require a parental ballot. As reformers discovered last time round, LEAs are extremely good at intimidating parents out of voting for change. Under the new arrangements, it would be the school governors who would make the decision and those governors who were LEA appointees would be barred from voting on the proposal. That, more than anything else I’ve heard from the Conservatives, makes it sound as if they mean business."

Tim Montgomerie


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