Tory social engineering is back!


2:49 pm - November 18th 2008

by Stan Moss    


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The Conservatives are publishing their recommendations. Don’t worry if your husband beats you. Iain Duncan Smith tells you why you should stick together.

What better way to publicise their proposals than in the wake of Baby P’s death and the ‘blood on their hands’ groundwork done by the tabloids? Back-to-basics Tories and social engineering are back with a bang. Iain Duncan Smith, former Conservative leader and now David Cameron’s advisor on ‘social breakdown’ has published his recommendations.

‘Informal’ relationships are to be discouraged. The idea is that unmarried couples are behind a good chunk of Britain’s ills. If you’re not married but you have a partner you may be more likely to slap a child or fraud the system in your quest for council flat Eldorado. There will also be “a series of measures to make marriage more attractive and divorce more difficult.”

Have you just discovered your hubbie has smelly feet? Worse, are you enduring some old-skool beating from him? Calm down, you woman and take a breath. Iain Duncan Smith found out that you shouldn’t give up. If you do, you contribute to the breakdown of society, that entity that never used to exist but then came back from the wilderness right in the middle of its breakdown. In any case, tax breaks for married couples should do the job. Sod that black eye, your National Insurance contributions will be a little lower.

Of course the Tories aren’t doing that because their bad or backward-looking. IDS explains his ideas are based on statistics. They’re all saying cohabiting couples went from 10 per cent in 1988 to 25 per cent today. Shit. That’s where all that knife crime and crack consumption comes from.

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This is a guest post. Stan blogs at: Hagley Road to Ladywood
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Crime ,Humour ,Westminster

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Reader comments


Ah yes, a bit more of the Cameron veneer slips again. The last 18 months have just been one giant green wash. Just like Bush in 2000 with his so called compassionate Conservative bullshit. . Cameron is slowly , piece by piece showing himself to be what we always knew he was, a right wing old fashioned Thatcherite.

Duncan Smith is a terrible hypocrite to be complaining about social disorder from people living off the tax payer. As I understand it ,he was born to a father in the military. (paid for by the tax payer) Then educated in a navy school (paid for by the (taxpayer) Joined the military himself.(paid for by the taxpayer) Then left the military, and joined an arms manufacturer working as a salesman/consultant. (Indirectly paid for by the tax payer) Before becoming a member of Parliament. (Paid for by the tax payer with a nice juicy expense account, and pension paid for by the tax payer) Free market my ass.

Yet more vitriolic bitterness. No analysis and no attempt to even read and digest what they are reporting. Why not just write one sentence: “I hate the Tories”? Liberals or fascists?

TROLL “Yet more vitriolic bitterness. No analysis and no attempt to even read and digest what they are reporting.”

You don’t do irony then? HA HA HA

chavscum,

What exactly is your point? What’s wrong with the occasional red meat?

Check out the Tory blogs, you’ll find they’re a hateful lot – sometimes we like to vent ourselves.

I’m getting a bit tired of your predictable asides. Get real.

The psychologist in me thinks that Duncan-Smith places auch an emphasis on the institution of marriage because his character has been formed within institutions.

It works for him, so it should work for everyone else, right?

It is presumptive of me to say so, but I doubt Duncan-Smith’s marriage is a perfect love match, and while I can’t judge him on their ability to make it work for them I do judge him on his assumption that such a basis of a relationship as his doesn’t cause as many problems as it solves.

Frankly I don’t like the idea of a society with levels of conformity equal to those of the military.

Aaron’s right….right-wing Tory blogs and commentators have been jumping on this issue all week long and there is nothing wrong with the odd retort…

This is just a schoolboy lefty rant that has no place on a blog that wants to get taken seriously.

“Of course the Tories aren’t doing that because their[sic] bad or backward-looking.”

I don’t know which genius decided to publish this rubbish, but couldn’t you teach your boy to spell?

Or is this an advert for 10 more years of ‘education, education, education’?

They are trying to tackle the number one factor in raising criminals and that is poverty and fatherlessness.

What do you suggest?

ac256 “This is just a schoolboy lefty rant that has no place on a blog………ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Shorter troll, …………” I got nothing to say.”

This might sound odd and maybe a little out of place on an ostensibly partisan post, but I’m actually quite disappointed in Iain Duncan Smith. His Centre for Social Justice has come up with some half-decent proposals in the past, and his work with Labour MP Graham Allen on ‘Early Intervention’ should be required reading for anyone who’s serious about tackling some of the underlying social problems in deprived communities. That kind of thinking might, over a long period of time, produce some positive results. Tinkering with marriage? Not so much.

“I dislike marriage, marriage is therefore bad, and therefore cannot be a force for good under any circumstances” is the thrust of your argument.

Perhaps this goes back to your own childhood, perhaps to a state eduction where boundaries are considered a bad thing, perhaps you’ve just overdosed on the guardian, perhaps professionally you have seen a lot of domestic violence, I don’t know, but I was surprised to read such anti-male vitriol from a male blogger. Have you ever considered that violent husbands would still be violent to the women in their lives if they weren’t married and that maybe it’s the person not the institution that determines abusive behaviour ?

“They’re all saying cohabiting couples went from 10 per cent in 1988 to 25 per cent today. Shit. That’s where all that knife crime and crack consumption comes from.”

It’s probably not the whole answer but if not from there, then where ? Personality traits are formed in childhood, and propensity to violence is a known gene/environment interaction. Both have roots in the family. It’s no good just saying the right are peddling golden age myths, they may be, but that’s hardly the point. The real question is why should society have to tolerate increasingly abberant behaviour and the social and economic costs that go with it, just because the “liberal elite” (for want of a better phrase) dissaprove of marriage ?

This is interesting – both the letters and the coments

http://www.samizdata.net/blog/archives/2008/11/a_letter_to_the.html

I am certainly struck by the mature tone of the samizdata comment thread you link to.

ac265,
thanks for pointing out the mistake. It was they’re. I hate spelling mistakes. I should practice what I preach!!!

However, don’t be so arsy. There’s such a thing known as karma. Soon you’ll make a massive spelling mistake and you’ll blush and get red ears.

I’m fairly new to this blog: is it supposed to host serious discussion, or just be a bit of group therapy? There are some serious points to make about this, but maybe they’re better made elsewhere. I note line 1 of the comments policy, but this doesn’t yet strike me as a constructive debate !

@Matt Munro
“It’s probably not the whole answer but if not from there, then where ? ”

But it needn’t be any sort of answer. You’re positing a causal chain of less marriage = more dysfunctional parenting, when in fact it’s just as likely that both proceed from the same more nebulous causal factors – the end of a communitarian and agrarian economy, the evolution of morality away from Christian principles, and the burgeoning economic freedom since the post-war period for people to live alone.

All these things have had both good and bad outcomes – greater social liberty, greater personal freedom, more social mobility, but also less structure for those unstable individuals who need to be forced by outside factors to, e.g., look after their children properly. We can try and do something about this problem, recreate this structure for them or remove the need for it. But we can’t pick on one little factor – marriage – that was once a part of the old structure, artificially reverse it and then expect that to do the job the whole edifice once did.

Empty conservative dog whistling as usual.

Most of the actual proposals put forward by the conservative party towards encouraging marriage and discouraging divorce are laughable. As if a few small tax breaks is going to encourage people to get married beyond the margins. Furthermore making divorce more difficult will probably act as a deterrent against marriage in the first place, whilst ensuring people stuck in unhappy marriages find it more difficult to get out of them.

Similarly the focus on cohabiting couples is also ludicrous – living together before marriage probably increases the likelihood you’ll stay together because at least you know the bad habits of your partner first.

I also find it somewhat ironic that self proclaimed “libertarians” ( including a few of the commentators above) have no problem with the government promoting one form of family structure over another, but are usually the first to complain about the government promoting anti-racist campaigns.

However there are some actual proposals that would probably have the effect of restoring marriage and promoting it as an institution. They could eliminate government funding for women’s refuges, shut down police investigations into domestic violence, restore the right of husbands to rape their wifes, make divorce illegal, make sex before marriage illegal, make adultery illegal, promote the idea that a women’s place is in the home so fewer women have the means to live independently…hell why not just adopt the custom of arranged marriages?

Family breakdown is a symptom not the cause of social breakdown. If you want to tackle the latter then you’ll need to do more than tincker with tax breaks and increase the cost of divorce lawyers.

I totally agree with Alix and Plainshift.
The other day I posted this comment elsewhere but it’s totally valid about this too.

America is notoriously so much stingier on welfare than any EU country. Look how fucked up the American underclass is. Millions don’t even live in flats. They live in trailers

18 years of Tories and 11 of New Labour have given us the worst social indicators in Western Europe in terms of housing, education and healthcare.

We have BY FAR the biggest levels of household debt in the EU. We have the biggest gap in wealth distribution. Our labour market is the most ‘flexible’, which means the highest rates of casualisation. Union membership is one of the lowest on the continet. Britain has also the highest paid corporate exacutives. Social mobility is grinding to a halt as report after report is showing. We have incredibly high (and growing) levels of apathy. The 2005 general elections turnout was the lowest recorded in Europe since WWII.

To me, all those factors have a MUCH bigger relevance on the breakdown of society, crime and behavioural dysfunctionality than, say, tax credit for single mothers or single parenthood going up in 25 years.

Planeshift nails it!

“I also find it somewhat ironic that self proclaimed “libertarians” ( including a few of the commentators above) have no problem with the government promoting one form of family structure over another, but are usually the first to complain about the government promoting anti-racist campaigns.”

Tory policy on marriage is always about carrot and stick. Carrot for the rich in the form of tax cuts, and stick for the poor by making it harder to get divorced.

This is just a schoolboy lefty rant that has no place on a blog that wants to get taken seriously.

I love the smell of fear and loathing. I expect all these whiny right-wingers who came here telling us how to run our editorial mistake this for the Daily Mail.

and what’s the Liberal line on this? Can “Liberals” like Sally and Sunny have a line? They are certainly not very keen on respecting the ground-rules of the blog…

Troll “and what’s the Liberal line on this? Can “Liberals” like Sally and Sunny have a line? They are certainly not very keen on respecting the ground-rules of the blog”

Shorter troll………….It’s not fair, I want to throw my shit at liberals without complaint.

and what’s the Liberal line on this?

We hate socially illiberal Tories. How about that for a line? Now go cry somewhere else please.

why should society have to tolerate increasingly abberant behaviour and the social and economic costs that go with it

While it’s nice that we’ve got some liberal answers to this kind of question, it’d be better if whenever it was asked we exposed it as a transparent attempt to shift the debate towards Cameron’s ‘broken society’ nonsense. We don’t have to tolerate ‘increasingly aberrant behaviour’, because there is no evidence *at all* that behaviour is increasingly aberrant.

There’s some evidence that it became more aberrant between 1946 and about 1990, but levels of ‘aberrance’ on any sane metric have been static or falling since then.

Planeshift: Maybe the reason they focus on cohabiting couples is that cohabiting couples with children are far more likely to split up than married couples with children. And children whose parents have split are more vulnerable to things like struggling at school, mental health problems, involvement in drugs etc. That’s the general findings of research on all this.

Alix: agree that all forms of committed relationship have been eroded by cultural change, so the question is whether we promote any form of committed adult relationship as the best environment for raising children. Most people still seem to see marriage as an ideal, even if they never reach it. It would be a shame if encouraging marriage & committed adult relationships became a partisan thing (‘it’s Tory policy so we don’t like it’), if it might just be a social good, though a bit less effective a social good than it used to be.

It makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? Unmarried couple are hitting children, they get married, get a few tax breaks, and all of a sudden they don’t feel so violent anymore. Ah the wonders of marriage.

“We hate socially illiberal Tories. How about that for a line? Now go cry somewhere else please.”

Yes because you prefer to endorse the thatcherite doctrine that ‘there is no such thing as society’. You share with the Tory Libertines the same culturally illiterate views on mass immigration.

Adults who cohabit or have serial partners are more likely than married people to suffer physical violence. Child abuse is 33 times more likely in unmarried families. Plus living together before marriage DECREASES the likelihood you’ll stay together, the exact opposite of what Planeshift ‘supposes’. Obviously he hasnt taken any time to study the subject. How typical.

All around the country fatherlessness is abandoning children to educational under-achievement, depression and criminality. The facts are too overwhelming so all you can do is caricature those who are more honest and sincere than you are. Their proposed solutions may be inadequate and so you just mock them and deny there’s even a problem.

I’ve posted a review of the review (so to speak) at
http://himmelgartencafe.blogspot.com/2008/11/idss-family-law-review-reviewed.html

To be honest, when you take off the spin and read the thing, it’s more interesting how little it actually says. It identifies marriage as a Good Thing(TM) and presents some evidence to support the claim; but when you look at how the review proposes to boost marriage, there’s not much meat there at all.

More questions than answers, but that might all change by the time the final review gets published and how it translates into real Tory policy is anyone’s guess.

Tracey, when quoting your statistics you fail to realise that there is no way of knowing what causes what. It’s very unscientific to take two coinciding phenomena and make one the cause of the other: high rates of child abuse coincide with cohabitation, therefore cohabitation must be the cause, forget other coinciding factors such as poverty. If the couple get’s a simple piece of paper then everything’s fine and dandy, you won’t get husbands walking out on their wives because they’ll have a piece of paper to stop them.

Higher income earning families will always be more stable; they have money, education and the emotional stability to love their children. They tend to get married because their social peers do it, and they need to fit in.

Ala – There’s no known causation between smoking and lung cancer, however, there is a high correlation. So by your logic smoking should not be restricted in any way ?
Correlation does not prove causation but neither does it disprove it, the fact that you can’t identify the cause/effect mechanism between a stable relationship and a happy childhood (although blindingly obvious to most people outside LC) doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
Obviously someone who is abusive will likely remain abusive whether they are married or not, the solution is to lock those people up, not reject marriage because it isn’t a social panacea (Which no one has ever claimed it to be anyway, just an improvement/ideal). That’s a bit like saying “some people become alcoholics therefore no one should drink”.

Matt, no one’s “rejecting” marriage per se, nor are they neccessarily denying that there is a “cause/effect mechanism between a stable relationship and a happy childhood”. What we are disputing is the notion that encouraging people to get married who otherwise would not have done so is going to solve, or even help to solve, the kind of problems mentioned by Tracey.
People’s relationships don’t become stable because they get married, successful marriages work because the relationships are already stable. If they are not then the marriage will fail, people will divorce and you will have all of the associated problems.

32. Mike Killingworth

Tracey claims living together before marriage DECREASES the likelihood you’ll stay together, . Very likely: probablt the only people to-day who don’t live together (or at least have a regular monogamous sexual relationship, whether under one roof or two) are those who practice evangelical and/or conservative religion big-time. Such people have generally sex-negtative attitudes, and almost certainly have less sex than other couples.

If only you could get the data, I’m pretty sure you could show that the more often a couple f*ck, the more likely they are to break up!

I don’t accept that ‘all the evidence’ points to marriage being better for children. In a strict statistical sense it may be the case that there are better outcomes for the group of kids in families categorised as ‘married’ versus the kids brought up in families categorised as ‘non-married’, but this is such a simplistic picture that it should hardly be used as the basis for a selection of measures that will have the effect on penalising people for removing themselves from unhappy relationships. The idea that meaningful conclusions can be draw from tables that categorise all family structures as either ‘married’ or ‘non-married’ seems to me to be absurd.

Off the top of my head there are several different categories of relationship that a child could be brought up in.

1. Happy Marriage
2. Married couple staying together for the children
3. Married couple who hate each other and are always rowing
4. Married but relationship is abusive with violence.
5. Cohabiting couple in love
6. Cohabiting couple but spark is gone from the relationship
7. Cohabiting couple always arguing
8. Cohabiting couple in abusive relationship
9. Single parent, but the other parent maintains contact with child and both parents have cordial relationship with each other
10. Single parent, other parent is on scene but they don’t get on with each other.
11. Single parent on their own.

This is before I’ve added other variables that are clearly relevant; is there an extended family involved in raising the child? Are the people involved the child’s natural parents (for example: what about adopted children being raised by a married couple)?, Step-parents?, What if the couple concerned are swingers? What about whether the marriage is an arranged one? In fact we must also consider other factors involved – socio-economic status, the age of parents, religiosity, education level etc, etc, etc.

Does the conservative party really believe the evidence is that a child will be better off being raised by married parents in an abusive relationship than raised by a single parent who has their extended family around to help out? Does it really believe that a young married couple living in a poor area are going to do a better job than a wealthy cohabiting couple who love each other but lack the legal recognition of this love?

Because whenever they come out with measures that simplistically value marriage as the magic potion to repair social breakdown then that is what they are saying.

At the very least they should probably go back to their copies of SPSS and allow than 2 categories of relationship status for their cross tabs.

Planeshift – thats just typical leftwing obsurfcation. The stats don’t support my argument so I’ll say the analysis is simplistic and the problem is really much more complicated than people realise, throw in a load of irrelavent/unmeasurable variables thereby making the problem unsolvable, thereby retaining a status quo that I approve of.
“Complex” problems don’t need complex solutions, the theory of relativity consits of 5 characters…..


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