Saturday, October 13, 2007

Marriage is suddenly OK, Conservatives setting agenda again

For years politicians fought shy of marriage. Inept presentation by the Conservatives coupled with their own indiscretions made marriage-neutral policy the norm. In fact, the welfare systems developed by Gordon Brown are more than that, they have financial discouragements to marriage. This is not so much a bad thing as barking mad. Morals aside, repeated quantitative analysis of the outcomes for children show that those raised in a stable relationship outperform those from any other situation in every regard. In terms of academic achievement, absence of drug use, lack of criminal activity, economic success and even good mental health there isn't so much as a gap, but a gulf. And guess what? Marriages are more stable, make that much more stable, that any cohabitation arrangements. Now, that is the trend, but it isn't true in every case. There are examples of heroic single parents whose children have been wildly successful, in the same way as there are examples of 93-year olds who have smoked two packs a day and never got lung cancer. But, you don't base public policy only on the extremes, either for supporting marriage or smoking prevention.

The sea-change started with Iain Duncan-Smith who instead of sulking when he lost the leadership of the Conservative Party organised some serious research into social policy. He came to the conclusion that marriage should be supported. Without giving out any credit, the government's recent U-turn on inheritance tax only applies to Married couples or those in civil partnerships. Now Andrew Burnham, Labour's Chief Secretary to the treasury and also adopted the Conservative line. It is inconceivable that he would freelance on this issue, so he must be preparing the ground for something, and not before time. Now we have Gordon Brown's vision laid bare, it's whatever David Cameron thinks.

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