Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I agree with Nick Clegg


I'm not ashamed to admit it: I agree with what Nick Clegg says regarding families and marriage.

Despite the many headlines, what Nick Clegg said regarding families and marriage in his speech to Demos and the Open Society Foundation was actually quite brief:
"The institutions of our society are constantly evolving. Just look at the way the roles of men and women, and attitudes to marriage and divorce, have changed over the last century.

"We should not take a particular version of the family institution, such as the 1950s model of suit-wearing, bread-winning dad and aproned, homemaking mother – and try and preserve it in aspic.

"That’s why open society liberals and big society conservatives will take a different view on a tax break for marriage. We can all agree that strong relationships between parents are important, but not agree that the state should use the tax system to encourage a particular family form."
I believe that all family forms people choose to enter are equally valid, and none should be picked out for special treatment by the state, in an attempt to encourage more people to choose it. In any event, it is highly doubtful that the state can do much about such choices. As Clegg said to Sky News, it is unlikely that offering them "20 quid back would make much difference to people's decisions" on whether or not to get married. The state should react to social change, not try to drive it.

Conservatives will of course say that there is overwhelming evidence that marriage produces better outcomes for children, but this is not clear, and even if it were, the simple fact is that more and more couples are choosing not to tie the knot. We must deal with the situation as it is, not how some of us may wish it to be.

I realise that there are many who take a different view, including some who I respect highly, such as Marilyn Stowe, but it is not the first time that Marilyn and I have agreed to differ. On the Tory right, others have predictably got quite hot under the collar about Clegg's comments, including the old dinosaur Norman Tebbit in The Telegraph (who seems most offended at the slur against the decade in which he got married) and the slightly hysterical Nick Wood in the Daily Mail, but I am not sorry to differ from them.

Incidentally, I also agree with Nick Clegg regarding an elected House of Lords, but don't tell anyone...

14 comments:

  1. rofpml. I mean Nick and Norman, you are the only ones in a dwindling minority (married people). That which chooses to insist on a woman's place being in the home. The world has moved on and is the better for it. So, no, don't have a go at the Lib Dems, if you want someone to blame, look in the mirror. Abolishing grants and apprenticeships, legalising divorce on demand. The lib dems can't be blamed for where we are, the tories and labour can. 1973 mca was passed under the tories, the csa was set up by them. They are the ones to blame for the feral young men and wild women they love to hate so much bloody hypocrites, like a lot of politicians, moan but don't address the real issue on if they want women at home or not, I suggest they do, I don't. Wish they'd shut up they lost the argument on that one a hundred years ago.

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  2. i have never bought the spurious argument that marriage produces better outcomes for children. all that means is that children with better financial outcomes are from those nice middle class and above homes where they happen to have got married - funny that. talk about confusing cause and effect.

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  3. Quite, SW.

    Thanks to both of you for those comments.

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  4. One of the arguments made by Dennis and Erdos in their Families without Fatherhood is that people must have access to accurate information when making decisions about whether or not to marry or whether or not to divorce. Unfortunately much of the information available is simply wrong and thus much public opinion is based on falsehood. The statement “all family forms people choose to enter are equally valid” is contradicted by an overwhelming amount of evidence, and the benefits to children of a married family go far beyond the financial, as Simply Wondered seems to think. It is these out-dated socialist views which identify their apologists as dinosaurs, who refuse to accept the weight of evidence.

    The argument that the state should not get involved in individual decisions is flawed. The state has been involved for the last 40 years or more, using taxation and benefit systems, and radical changes in matrimonial and child law to bring about change. And yet as soon as a politician suggests a modest reversal of these changes he is jumped on by the Polly Toynbee clones as if his suggestion is outrageous. So it is legitimate to change society according to socialist precepts but not according to conservative ones?

    It is also a matter for the state because these decisions affect other people: in particular they affect the children involved, but they also affect society more widely. Society thus has an interest in whether people decide to cohabit or marry, divorce or remain together, etc. The public should at least be given the appropriate information to enable them to make enlightened decisions. I would argue further that they also have a right to a tax and benefit system which does not, in Frank Field’s words, “brutally discriminate” against the married. Cameron’s proposed tax break won’t end that discrimination, but it represents at least the recognition that the playing field is not level. If all family forms really are equally valid, then surely support for a level playing field must follow?

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  5. Thank you for your views, Nick.

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  6. The argument that cohabitees should get more rights akin to those that are married or in civil partnerships has always perplexed me. The institutions that provide those rights already exist and it is a matter of choice. If you wish to have very little rights then continue to live above the shop. If your partner does not wish to marry you then you have two choices, stay with someone who does not wish to provide you with a legal commitment or leave and find someone that will.

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  7. Me again. Well, as NL says, So it is legitimate to change society according to socialist precepts but not according to conservative ones?

    In short, yes.

    I have lived in and under a marriage. 1. I have been married. 2. As a child to two parents in a marriage (who eventually diorced).


    Neither were happy times, don't see that many happy marriages. My happiest times have been far away from that dodgy anachronistic institution. I don't want to oppress women or be a wage slave or conform to Thatcherite principles of 'basic to basics' a phrase coined by John Major (hypocrite) while he was having it away with Edwina. I am not a hypocrite like him and would rather enjoy my life more and be happy.

    Maybe I'm meeting the wrong people, but I find so few happily married people.

    What's the answer, socialism? No, I don't think so, I think things are alright as they are and I don't mind the tories not having a natural majority or no MPs outside of England and Wales much at all really :-).

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  8. So, Norman and Nick, don't expect to be welcome round my house, you may stay outside with the Diplodocuses.

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  9. Incidently I disagree with Nick about the House of Lords. Perhaps because my partner is the grand daughter or a hereditary peer (Earl) sitting there and he is a rather nice decent chap, I've met him. Incidentally, the Earl is a Lib Dem also. Things like this can get very confusing very quickly.

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  10. Mark: Some people choose not to comply with social conventions. It does not mean they are less committed.

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  11. Of course, but it also follows that they should not enjoy increased rights because they choose not to sign up to the institutions that already exist. It is all about choice!

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  12. Exactly - it's all about choice, without outside interference from the State.

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  13. if, by making a particular choice, you are disadvantaged by the inbuilt bias of society can the choice be described as free?
    oh bugger - talking about society's inbuilt bias against certain types of people and choices is probably more of that socialist nonsense stuff. many apols. better get off to church and beg forgiveness of the father-deity.

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