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Alan Johnson needs to gain votes from the 1968 generation Labour MPs for his desired depity job and cannot face being outflanked by Potty Hain.

The BBC World Service has a politics programme which had Simon Hughes and Diane Abbott to discuss why fatherless black hoodlums like handguns....funny how neither thought the absence of a father was important - but the unspoken piece was that Hughes is childless and Abbott a black single mother who makes media appearances to fund her son at private school with the justification at the time of the ease with which black boys could be led astray in schools without structure or discipline.

It was highly amusing to see how this little matter was omitted. No wonder oliticians give the impression of being helpless by-standers as the key evidence is suppressed

Tony Blair, famed for one of the strongest marriages in politics, is said to be concerned that the Conservative leader's argument has resonance, while other colleagues fear the demonisation of single parents and cohabitees.
In Radio 4's Any Questions yesterday the SNP Alex Salmond seemed to be adopting much of Mr Cameron's agenda, while simultaneously suggesting that Cameron was only engaged in rhetoric with the intent of 'rebranding' the Conservatives image rather than action.

Interesting Dave. Mr Salmond is, of course, chasing Scotland's Catholic votes.

City of London Boys School

she said that race had been a factor in her decision, as too many black boys were unsuccessful within inner-city state schools.

In state schools in Hackney, she had said that only 9% of black boys achieved five or more good GCSEs

She is believed to have chosen to pay £10,000 a year for James, 12, to attend City of London School, rather than a comprehensive near her home in Hackney, north London.

What a shame that there won't be any official cross-party support in this critical area. However, it interesting to note an article in the Spectator this week, where Frank Field says that Cameron is on the right lines with regard to his social justice agenda. I wonder how widely that view is held among his fellow backbenchers.

Cameron has been careful to avoid stigmatising single parent families and repeating the rhetoric of yesteryear while supporting the place of fathers in the family. Diane Abbot is an example of the strength and purpose a single mother can bring - she put interests of her child and desire to give him a better start before her party's prejudices. In his school her son probably does get strong male role models.

Marriage is in most cases the best environment for bringing up children and needs support but we also need to go wider and look at what can be done to strengthen the role of the father in cases of breakdown and single parenthood. It is not only about responsibilities but rights & duties. In the last hundred years the rights of the mother have in some areas been at the expense of the rights of the father.

The presumption of shared responsibility for children involves sharing custody, rights of access, joint responsibility for the behaviour & upbringing of the child as well as the privision of cash for maintenance. A state which cuts the male parent out from a formal role in a childs development cannot then blame lack of male role models.

I can understand Alan Johnson's fear that supporting marriage becomes an excuse to attack other parental models - his history is one of success in such a case. I hope that with David Davis in a senior position in our party he will bring his experiences to the development of policy.

What a simplistic argument! Dear God- marriage 'breakdown' to blame for today's social ills! If that claptrap is to be believed- we're doomed. Right- 'underachievement'. more to do with the fact that most people have cottoned on that education has nothing to do with 'education' per-se (personal fulfillment etc), more to do with getting the kids out of the way whilst the parent (s) is out at work, and getting the kids programmed ready for employment. For most , that means Tesco- etc. 'Incivility' and 'crime' can be blamed by 30-40 years of bad legislation by politicians of both main parties. We need an 'educational', and a strong 'crime and punishment' revolution to start to turn the tide.

"Alan Johnson is apparently going to warn that family policy should not be based on 'the prejudices of yesterday's generation' but he is the one with throwback views."

Aren't you being a little harsh on Alan Johnson here?

His own difficult experience of being orphaned at a young age and raised by his older sister has probably coloured his views somewhat, but a lot of people would agree that he is more in touch with the realities of modern life than those with a vision of a society of perfect families based on Enid Blyton novels and twee gravy commercials featuring Lynda Bellingham.

Family breakdown is a tragic aspect of contemporary society, but instead of harking back to a bygone era in a desperate search for a solution, we should focus on finding ways of mitigating its occasional negative wider effects on society that are relevant here and now.

I am glad Daniel to be on the side of David Cameron on this issue! It often seems to be the other way round in our discussions.

i don't hear David Cameron condemning single mothers and I'm certainly not. Single parenthood is incredibly difficult and many single parents do a fantastic job at raising children but they do so against the odds. And that's the crucial thing - they do so against the odds.

We all know some single mum stories where the lone parent does a better job than a two parent family (particularly when the cause of family breakdown is bereavement rather than separation or never-together-status) but the general rule is that two parents are better than one and that marriage is much more stable than cohabitation. A sensible government interested in the welfare of children (and the elderly) will therefore support the aspiration to marry in the same way that it supports other socially useful aspirations like the aspiration to save, start a businessorand study for a qualification.

And another thing; you don't enhance your argument by caricaturing your opponents as believing in an Enid Blyton/ Oxo world. The defenders of the traditional family are the empiricists and the employment of misrepresentation by the apologists for alternative lifestyles does not help your case.

Cameron has been careful to avoid stigmatising single parent families

And is it not necesary to draw a distinction between "single parents" such as my mother - widowed when I was 11 - and wht used to be called "gymslip mothers"

It is an insult to include the two in the same breath, as indeed it is to imply that that Conservative Party was ever prejudiced against widows and decent women who were the victims of their husbands' unfaithfulness.

"but a lot of people would agree that he is more in touch with the realities of modern life than those with a vision of a society of perfect families based on Enid Blyton novels"

Which actually still exist to a large degree in some parts of the country. I can count on one hand the number of my friends with single parents and in both cases due to divorce. Unfortunately the number of such families is rapidly declining and we need to come up with a way to do something about it that doesn't involve electoral vaporisation (wholesale demolition of the welfare system is therefore unfortunately not on the cards).

Labour is of course infected by the mentality that says nobody must be judged, we mustn't point out that certain lifestyles or choices are better than others etc. Miliband was at it a while ago claiming that organic food shouldn't be considered better than non-organic food. Whatever the merits of this argument I had the strong suspicion that he didn't like the idea of a particular middle class eating habit being promoted as "superior".

That said, nobody is very keen on a nanny state either. Therefore any attempt to bolster marriage should perhaps best be done by removing any disincentives and by the constant publication of studies proving its superiority. We can't force people to get married but we can make it easier for them financially and easier for them to make an informed decision.

"I am glad Daniel to be on the side of David Cameron on this issue! It often seems to be the other way round in our discussions."

Well I thought his observations about absentee parents were on the mark, but it's the inferred automatic conclusion that marriage must be the answer that I have difficulty accepting.

Expecting unhappy parents to get/stay married 'for the sake of the children' (I'll resist the temptation to caricature proponents of this view as Helen Lovejoy) is both unrealistic in today's society and unfair on all parties concerned.

Unhappy marriages tend to fuel bitterness and resentment, not only between husband and wife, but often directed towards children too.

Such an atmosphere is inevitably a corrosive influence in a child's upbringing, often with similar consequences to those of absentee parenting.

A far better approach (in my opinion) would be to take measures to ensure that both parents take an active role in the upbringing of their children and act as positive role models, while not prescripting marriage as some sort of panacea to the problem of family breakdown.

And this may be a politically unfashionable viewpoint, but stricter measures to restore social discipline wouldn't go amiss either.

I can't see why this is being presented as a matter of "social justice", jargon used by the left to convey the impression that every misfortune anyone experiences in their life must necessarily be a social injustice which cries out to be rectified by an ever more intrusive government - which of course they would be controlling. Perhaps somebody could explain. Otherwise, I might drop Polly a line and see what she thinks about it.

Daniel VA let me posit a different model. Find women of low attainment and have a child by one; then move on and impregnate another; and another. Do not work but learn what entitlements the DWP Cash Dispenser offers.

This model has the attraction of no problems with the CSA, no mortgage worries, and no problems about child support. Social workers don't bother and the taxpayer provides free healthcare, free housing, freed education, and there are no limits to the number of women who can carry your genes to fruition.

Surely this is an alternative model of "unhappy marriages" - not to marry at all - but to be a serial father and produce future voters ?

Denis: I'm certainly not proposing that government gets bigger to deliver social justice. I'm arguing that the welfare state does get bigger and bigger when the welfare society and its institutions - family, church, charity, friendly society, neighbours that look out for each other - get weaker. The interesting debate regards the role of government in supporting marriage and civil society bodies. I hope we can agree, as a first step, that we eliminate disincentives within the tax and benefits system to marriage. After that I support active policies to boost community-run marriage support services of the kind George W Bush is funding with his Healthy Marriage Initiative.

Fair enough, Tim, I realise that you would seek solutions which didn't involve an expansion of the state. But I don't see why this is categorised as "social justice", which implies that a single parent and/or his/her children must necessarily have been, or will become, the victims of some form of "social injustice".

Whilst it is now a proven fact that children do better with a stable two parent family background, it is also perfectly possible for there to be a stable two parent family without there being an actual marriage.


Diane Abbot is an example of the strength and purpose a single mother can bring

She's also a super example of a Pompous Windbag. Clearly a lady of many talents.:-)

Dave - she is a pompous windbag, wrong on many things but she made the right choice for her child. I also listened to Radio 4 - seemed to hear different programme from TomTom as I though Abbot came very close to the IDS/Cameron position in many of her answers.

Yes Matt - two parents families can be stable without marriage - but let's be rigorous in our thinking - it is much less likely. Cohabitatees are more likely to break up than married couples. Much more likely.

"Diane Abbot ....put interests of her child and desire to give him a better start before her party's prejudices".

She may have made the right choice for HER child, but, like Ruth Kelly, she has shown little interest in opposing her parties prejudices to improve the opportunities for anyone else's children.
The hypocrisy is despicable.


she made the right choice for her child.

And given the State Only dogma within the Labour party, made a brave choice.
seemed to hear different programme from TomTom,
I thought you might of, in that TomTom mentions the World Service, and you mention Radio 4, and its thrown up a curious factiod that I'm not sure what to make of.

Radio 4's The Week in Westminster did a section on Gun Crime with Diane Abbot (Labour), Justine Greening (Conservative), and Simon Hughes (Lib-Dem). The Politics UK programme on the World Service also has a segment on gun crime but with Diane Abbot (Labour), and Simon Hughes (Lib-Dem), but not Justine Greening (Conservative). It sounds to me like one 'talk' edited differently for two similar programmes but is Ms Greening's omission from the World Service programme significant in the light of Robin Aitken's charge of BBC bias?

[Robin Aitkin's book is available from Amazon UK]

The stable two-parent family was too short-lived to offer any real evidence. Up to the 1930s many families broke up through death (not least because of the Great War) and reconstituted families (in or out of wedlock), widowhood and the poor law were the replacement. Orphanages and care by extended family was the lot of children who lost one or both parents to disease or industrial injury. Divorce rates may have been low, but death rates were high.

Equally, where marriages held together violence in the home was common and the authorities did nothing. Child abuse remained common and neglect was not even illegal until 1908.

The stable two-parent family was an ideal of the mid-twentieth century. It may well be the best way to bring up children, but the argument should not be based on historical data.

It may well be the best way to bring up children, but the argument should not be based on historical data.

Why not ? The Great War did not wipe out the population of this country. Britain had relatively low casualties compared to other countries and the family was extended.

You peddle a line which is factually incorrect but ideologically matched with your textbook.

where marriages held together violence in the home was common

That might be acceptable in a GCSE paper but is absolute drivel and frankly you make yourself ridiculous with such a blanket assertion.

Today's society is riddled with mental illness and personality disorders, and the cost of keeping this show on the road is high levels of SSRIs which are a consequence of isolation in the modern world of fractured and small families.

two parents families can be stable without marriage

Marriage is an estate rendered into law for the following reason by Hardwicke's Marriage Act 1753


The case of Campbell against Cochran et contra began in 1746 after the death of Captain John Campbell of Carrick at the battle of Fontenoy. 6 Although Captain Campbell had been living with Jean Campbell as his wife for some twenty years, Magdalen Cochran went to Canterbury to claim a pension as the Captain's widow. Jean Campbell therefore raised a Declarator of Marriage process before the Commissary Court. 7

Fascinating, TomTom. Thanks for the link.

"Today's society is riddled with mental illness and personality disorders, and the cost of keeping this show on the road is high levels of SSRIs which are a consequence of isolation in the modern world of fractured and small families."

Now that's assertion! Small families make you mad - poor TomTom you seem to have lost your way and just like your namesake you have directed yourself down a deadend.

Go back and read the whole post - the Great War did have an impact on family life, but I also make the point that other factors were at play. Tracing my own family back into the late 18th century shows that many marriages were interrupted by early deaths. This may be anecdotal, but it covers industrial workers, farmers, coalmiers, dockers, teachers, toll gate keepers and potters from counties all over England. Equally there were marriages between people of very different ages in order to reconstitute marriages after death. I cannot imagine some of these were very happy - few 21 year old widows would marry a 64 year old coalminer out of love.

Wife beating was common - it is well documented well into the 20th century, especially amongst what some historians call the "rough working class" who made up the bulk of 19th century Britain. The situation did vary from community to community, but it was an ever present danger. Many thanks for the reference about the Marriage Act - however, many 19th century couples did not marry in the modern sense of the word, rather they cohabited for life. If in doubt about any of this can I suggest the works of Burley and Gleadle who are experts in this field - their bibliographies will point you to wider reading if you doubt the validy of their works.

Frankly though TomTom I think you just enjoy having a pop at people and generally being rude.

I think the key aspect of the overall discussion about families is the situation in some of the large sink estates where we have children who don't know who their father is and probably the mother doesn't know either! The situation in these areas is one of amoral breakdown ironically fueled by the welfare state. This has to be reversed and Labour has been the enemy of working people who are most affected by this. Cameron is on the right track and needs to be bolder on these points,


Let us be very frank here and admit that there are strong class differences when it comes to children being brought up living with only one parent. I separated with a son of 5 and divorced when he was 8 and, as usual, he lived with his mother. As soon as he ever heard the term, he objected strongly to the term "single parent" on the grounds that he had two parents and we were both heavily involved in his life, making joint decisions over schools, supporting him when he was having any problems, taking him to week-end matches etc. This is the usual, albeit not invariable, way that the middle (and upper) classes deal with relationship break-down. It is still not good for the child, but it does not leave them with one parent. Until recently at least, the parents were married in the first place - maybe some residue of that commitment, even if it broke down, is taken forward in the joint nurturing of the children of the marriage.

Those who never had a father, or who had one whom their mother was never married to and never kept in touch, are mostly working class (again at least until recently). One reason is that the middle class separated/divorced mother benefits from the economic support of the father; there is also the strong middle class male tradition of the importance of the family line - into the future as well as into the past.

So, sadly, whilst parental separation has become common in both the middle and working classes, and whilst much emotional damage can be done to middle class children by selfish parents, the real damage has been to the social facric supporting children from poorer or working class backgrounds.

I suspect that many who belittle marital break-down as a cause of social ill, are thinking only of their own middle class friends.

My fear is that the damage to the fabric will spread further into the middle classes as a result of increasing numbers of the middle classes not bothering to marry when they have children. This means that, all other things being equal, there was never the intent that the parents would be committed to stay together to bring the children up in the first place. If parents living together cannot even be bothered to make that commitment for the sake of the child, it augurs ill. We need a stigma to be created about such omissions - not against the genuine single parents, who may often have admirably decided to have their child rather than abort it, but the parents living together who insult their children by not bothering to get married.

Tracing my own family back into the late 18th century shows that many marriages were interrupted by early deaths.

You should go further back Jack...you should be able to do at least 1670.

The Poor Law has an interesting aspect however. It did not pay for illegitimate children since the cost was borne by ratepayers; now that it is only VAT and NIC and petrol duty people don't seem to care whether parents pay for their children or the taxpayer.

The bit you missed out is the absence of divorce since until the end of the 19th Century it was only possible through Act of Parliament - and poorer people used to be arrested for trying to sell their wives in the marketplace.

Marriage was an institution to protect women and to finance and raise their children. It has now been socialised into a State activity whereby Children belong to The State. This is exactly the model of the USSR which had a huge divorce rate and the GDR which had 50%+ divorce rate where West Germany was much lower.

Indeed the divorce rate in England is far higher than in any of the other component parts of the UK.

I suggest the works of Burley and Gleadle

Yes do....The British Library catalogue returns 0 entries....so more detail would be useful

So what exactly are Conservative controlled local authorities doing to promote marriage preparation programmes through the Register Offices in which they pay most of the staff? Come on Daves [Cameron and Davis], be reasonable! Conservatives have have had a hand in this fiasco.

Labour have a vested interest in family breakdown: the secure family unit is an affront to Labour's aim to control all aspects of people's lives while increasing the numbers of the benefit-dependent poor is key to sustaining Labour's client state and the high taxes which go with it. In the case of vigilantes such as Harriet Harman, you can also add the vindictive agenda of the man-hating wing of militant feminism.


ISBN 0-333-61839-4
ISBN 0-333-67630-0

Intersting post Londoner. I think the point though that this isn't so much a working class issue either, its an underclass thing. The traditional working class tended to have fairly strict norms but are in decline from both ends of the spectrum. Some have moved up into the middle classes, others have dropped out into the underclass and the traditional working class left around are getting older now. I know this is a simplification but I think it is valid. My point is that the so-called defenders of the working classes (Labour) have totally let them down largely because of the unintended consequences of the welfare state,


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