Thursday 14 May 2009

Marriage matters

Just to note a couple of interesting responses to the latest Fabian Review.

The cover caught the eye of Tom Harris who blogs that he has been thinking a lot about whether Labour could "(a) be more electorally successful and (b) avoid a godawful civil war if it adopted a more socially conservative policy agenda? The Conservatives have always succeeded in painting themselves as the party of the family, whereas Labour comes across as at best agnostic and at worst antagonistic towards marriage itself."

Harris agrees with Kitty Ussher and Ed Straw about the weaknesses of a promote marriage by tax breaks agenda, when the evidence is that marriage signifies stability more than it creates it.

But he feels that "We’re being too careful in our valiant and energetic attempts not to offend anyone", noting that Ministers would welcome an increase in marriage rates or be concerned by rising divorce statistics.

"There’s a reason why weddings are basically big parties with lots of laughter and cheering. The Left would be making a big mistake if, instead of joining in the Slosh, they sat impassively, and non-judgmentally, on the sidelines, drinking a still water and refusing to get a round in".

As David Keen notes on his St Aidan to Abbey Manor blog - (Keen is a vicar, based in Yeovil),that chimes with Fabian Research Director Tim Horton's call for the left to develop a richer understanding of why the family matters.

Horton's argument is social democratic rather than socially conservative - arguing that recognising how much relationships and duties of care, nurture and love matter must be central to any argument for fairer life chances - but he very much shares Harris' concern about fence-sitting:

Didn’t civil partnerships matter not just because they extended legal rights, but because ensuring all couples could make a public commitment mattered symbolically too? Surely the left can’t celebrate gay marriage, but be scared of talking about marriage involving anyone else.

As David Keen notes:

If the left starts getting hold of a narrative about 'family', there will be some interesting debates ahead about what we mean when we use the word, and what vision of the Good Family people are working to.

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