27 Feb 2007

Tony Blair disputes "general social breakdown"

"Marriage policies 'not the cure' " screams the BBC, affronted that anyone could possibly dare to challenge its attempts to bury any discussion of 'marriage'.

Poodle-like it presents the debate which has at long last started - thanks to David Cameron - from the perspective of the Prime Minister. But let's give credit to Andrew Selous MP who first demanded there should be a debate in November 2003.

At his monthly press conference Tony Blair said, when it came to the most dysfunctional families who were "shut out" of mainstream society, specific intervention was needed at an early stage.

"In my view, the debate is not about marriage versus lone parents. The debate is about how you target measures specifically on those families some of whom will be lone parents - but some of whom will be couples."

As usual Tony Blair talks about how to 'target measures specifically on .... [dysfunctional] families some of whom will be lone parents - but some of whom will be couples', rather than promoting universal marriage and relationship education. The former is not only patently what is not required, and the latter is also what the wiser members of Parliament - across the political parties - have been saying for twelve years or so. Which policy is more likely to stigmatise lone parents?

If Tony Blair is right - and there is no 'general social breakdown' - how is it that West Yorkshire police are having to deal with 35,000 reported incidents of domestic violence each year? Why is it that one in five pregnancies are aborted? Who says that the 42% of children born to parents who are unmarried would not prefer their relationship to be an enduring one? Why is the UK in bottom place in just about every league table that might be used to measure 'social capital' in western democracies? And - possibly most telling of all - why have the Downing Street website gurus erased all references to its social capital project?

The Conservatives control the Local Government Association. So why aren't Conservative LA's promoting marriage education programmes through Register Offices in which they have paid staff? And why isn't David Cameron and the LGA demanding that a full range of indices and neighbourhood statistics are published so that local changes in social capital can be properly measured?

I'm sorry there is still such a long way to go. But at least and at last the debate has begun.

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