One of the few traditional Conservatives to have served on the Tory front bench under Cameron, Paterson was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland before being promoted to the more high profile role of Secretary of State for Defra.

Candidate of the day

Owen Paterson

One day to go and Sir John Major has weighed in. “Labour divides to rule. To win votes they will turn rich against poor; north against south; worker against boss." We hope we don't wake up with them on Friday.

Hero of the day

Sir John Major

Another awful Labour woman. The fact Ed Miliband’s carved his pledges in stone doesn't mean he might not break them, campaign chief Lucy Powell has said.

Villain of the day

Lucy Powell

.

THE REAL CONSERVATIVE MANIFESTO

Back marriage. Restore grammar schools. Leave the EU.

Rob Slane: The collapse of fatherhood has shattered our society

What is the biggest single issue facing this nation? This was the question I pondered when the ladies at The Conservative Woman emailed though a request to submit a special blog giving my particular take on the State of the Nation. Well there are a lot of issues out there, aren’t there? EU referendum, collapse of marriage, huge increase in state interference, egalitarianism, cultural Marxism, government debt, personal debt, sexual ethics, poor education, gargantuan welfare state, diabolical foreign policy etc etc etc. Which one is most pressing?

Actually, for me there is no dilemma. Press me on what is the single biggest social or political issue facing this country, and I don’t hesitate to say that it is the collapse of fatherhood. Almost all social ills can be traced back to this issue, if you follow the line back far enough, and addressing the problem is key to beginning to turn the country from its relentless drive to becoming a Third World Apple Monarchy (Banana Republic doesn’t quite fit the bill).

However, although I could write a piece just focusing on the problem, I’m not really interested in that, although problem-identification is necessary. We conservatives tend to be extremely good at pointing out what is wrong with the world, but generally not terribly good at proposing tangible solutions. I’d like to rectify that in this blog and another one on Wednesday, if I can.

And no the solutions do not include government at any level. That’s something we conservatives are also very good at doing; saying we want smaller government, but then unwittingly calling on the State to provide solutions. This is not to say that the State doesn’t bear a heavy responsibility for the current state of fatherhood today. With its encouraging of divorce, its dogmatic commitment to feminism and egalitarianism, and its creation of mass fatherlessness through the welfare system, it does indeed. But it is futile to look to the state to reverse these trends. As things stand, no government is going to reverse the easy divorce laws, egalitarian dogma or the gargantuan welfare system. And so we must look elsewhere.

The solution – and for me this is the foundation of proper conservatism – lies in grassroots solutions to major societal problems. If there is hope for a revival of the family, it lies in individual fathers going against the grain of the attack on fatherhood and the family, striving against all odds to become better fathers – ones who will begin to affect a real transformation firstly in their own homes, and then in wider society. So over the course of two pieces, I want to look at the issue of fatherhood, firstly the problem, and then in part two, offering some practical solutions.

Sociologists and politicians on the right of the political spectrum rightly tell us that fatherlessness is one of the biggest problems facing society. Often they will present the problem in terms of sheer numbers and statistics: “The number of households where there is no father present from the child’s birth has risen from X to Y in 40 years”. “The number of children entering their teens with their parents still married is now just X amount, compared to Y amount just 30 years ago”. “Children who grow up in homes where the mother and father remain married throughout are X times more likely to get better grades and be in employment than those children who grow up in homes where this is not the case”.

These sorts of things are perfectly true and valid. However, there is a danger with this kind of statistical approach that can lead us to believe that the problem is simply one of a lack of fathers. Or to put it another way, we can come to see the problem of fatherlessness as simply a quantitative problem – lack of fathers – and then tend to see the solutions in the same terms – more fathers needed.

Yet much as the quantitative side of the fatherlessness problem is true, it is not the be-all-and-end-all of the issue and in fact it only really scratches the surface of the fatherhood problem. In addition to the quantitative issue of fatherhood, there is also a qualitative issue that often seems to pass conservative analysts by. Of course a father is better than no father (unless of course the father in question is actively abusing his children, in which case the child will be better off in a home where he is not present), but there is more to it than this and we ought not to suppose that fatherlessness, per se, is the only problem that needs solving. Rather, there is also a much deeper issue of what fatherhood actually is.

I think it almost certainly the case that one of the many reasons we now have an epidemic of fatherlessness is that back in the day, when fatherlessness was not the problem it now is, many fathers failed to grasp what fatherhood should really look like. Certainly, most men grasped that being a father meant providing for their family and protecting their family – which is well and good – but unfortunately many men didn’t go beyond a superficial interpretation of what this means.

Now I have no desire whatsoever to defend feminism – it is a devastating ideology, not to mention a complete failure on its own terms, having succeeded in “liberating” men not women – yet it must be recognised that its advance did not appear out of a vacuum. It came from somewhere. Where?

Many answers might be given, and the role of Government and big corporations with their promises of a better life are certainly well worth a study or two in themselves. But behind all this, feminist ideology is at heart basically parasitical, feeding on the discontent of women. Where did this discontent stem from? Unfortunately, much of it grew out of the failure of many – perhaps even most – men to fulfil their roles as husbands and fathers, above and beyond the basics of providing and protecting.

As a general rule – and I do emphasise the word general – a woman who has a self-sacrificial husband, who loves, devotes and really gives himself to their children, is not going to be discontented enough with her lot to want to embrace an ideology that sees marriage and motherhood as a curse. Yes, there might be exceptions, but they will be rare. As I say, none of this is to defend feminism one iota, but it is simply to recognise that it has its origins in something, and that something is to a large extent due to the failure of men.

All this is to say that simply fixing the numbers, if that were possible, won’t work, although of course it would be way better than the train wreck we have now. Nor is there any no point in looking to statist solutions to fix fatherlessness either. The State is both parasite and host in all this, feeding off the discontent of women to grow fatter and fatter, and then devising numerous ways to provoke still further discontent.

No, the solution is to be found on the micro level and it involves every father out there striving every day to become a better father. It involves every father out there not contenting himself with being merely provider and protector on some superficial level, but rather having a deep desire to bless his children through his words, his character and his way of living each and every day.

Or we could put it this way: true fatherhood is costly. If you are a father, how much does fatherhood cost you? Generosity, benevolence, love, forgiveness, mercy and grace are far costlier than harshness, indifference, aloofness, coldness or absence. They require a daily struggle against sin. They require humbling ourselves to say sorry to our children when we’ve wronged them. They require listening patiently to them and taking pleasure in what for us may seem trivial, but what for them are really important things. And a whole lot more.

I don’t know about the fathers that are reading this, but I struggle with these things. They are not easy requirements for a sinful and selfish human being. Yet they are part of a struggle that all fathers should delight to be in the midst of, since victory in this struggle means blessing to your children. And if enough fathers engage in the struggle, ultimately it will bring blessing to our society too. In the second part of this piece, I will look in more detail at some of the practical issues involved in this high calling of fatherhood.

Rob Slane

  • Earthenware

    Ahh, so it’s all men’s fault and feminism is a response to useless fathers and husbands. This is something I would expect to read in The Guardian, not TCW.

    Personally, I’ll go with Erin Pizzey’s explanation – that feminism was an offshoot of the Marxism that became prevalent in the 1960s and that, like all Marxism, it’s an attempt to persuade the population at large to surrender power to a self-appointed elite under the guise of it being in their interest to do so.

    You may want to consider that feminism itself does not claim to be a response to male uselessness, but rather to male oppression. I suspect that the feminists themselves were aware that just complaining that men were useless would not result in political influence as most people would view that as a problem within each relationship.

    I look forward to the second part of this article, but if it is based on the position that the current state of society is due to men’s fecklessness I think you can look forward to some strongly-worded responses.

    • Diane Burns

      Why oh why oh why oh why did women, do women, have anything to do with men at all ? After all, men are useless at everything. It’s a given..a truism.

      • UKCitizen

        Tempting, but I will refrain!

      • Tricia

        Might be something to do with natural attraction, a self giving love between husband and wife, bringing new life into the world and forming a family. Much of which is not available in this sex obsessed world which cannot maintain a relationship. We can look at those couples who have achieved 60 years of marriage and are supporting one another in old age and maybe be able to achieve the same.

      • Russell

        Because living in caves can get a bit damp and chilly.

    • Rob Slane

      Thanks very much for reading into this what I haven’t written, and not reading into it what I have written. It’s a sort of art I guess.

      • Earthenware

        Oh, come on. How else are we to interpret “Unfortunately, much of it grew out of the failure of many – perhaps even most – men to fulfil their roles as husbands and fathers”?

        • Rob Slane

          You can interpret it in the way it is intended. Biblically speaking, the man is the head of the household. He is the CEO of his family. Therefore, the buck stops with him. If families and society go wrong, the buck stops with men. Does this absolve women from responsibility? Not at all. Had men been performing the biblical role of husband (loving their wives as Christ loved the church) feminism would never have gained the traction it did, and would have remained the preserve of a few radicals in universities.

          • VioletEyes

            You cannot be serious!

            Perhaps Rob, Women entering work in equal numbers to Men, due to the necessity of having 2 wages to run a household might have something to do with the fact that Men are not the CEO in the vast majority of families.

            The funding of single women with children through Tax Credits, Local Authority Housing and other Benefits might also help, eh Rob?

            Etc.

          • Rob Slane

            I am indeed serious. In most cases (not all I realise) it is not a necessity. I am not a high wage earner, I have six children, and my wife looks after all our children. It can be done.

          • Busy Mum

            Agree- it can be done – I do it – but you have to make material sacrifices which many people are not prepared to do!
            Sacrifice isn’t really the right word as most ‘stuff’ is unnecessary in the first place – but I guess you know what I mean!

          • VioletEyes

            You don’t do it tho, do you?

            Your husband does it (earns the monies), if you are in line with the article.

          • Busy Mum

            Ok then – WE do it – one parent earning, the other caring – a self-sufficient unit based on biological realities and loyalties that transcend the power of the state.

          • VioletEyes

            So you live on Tax Credits, Child benefit and Housing Benefit.

            Unless of course, your partner is a high earner or you inherited wealth.

            How do those who are not high earners follow your pie in the sky example?

          • Busy Mum

            Goodness me, you do jump to conclusions. We would be far better off financially if my husband did not work at all, or worked less than 16 hours per week. Not only would we get more money from the govt than he currently earns, but we would not have to pay any tax on it and on top of that we would then qualify for all those extras such as free school meals, free school trips, free school uniform, free this, free that, subsidised housing….As it is, he earns his money and pays large chunks to the govt as tax which then pays for the people who live the lifestyle described above and subsequently can ‘afford’ to give their children all sorts of things we cannot. The govt do give some of his tax back to us as ‘tax credit’ and ‘child benefit’. Maybe they could just take less off him in the first place?
            And just ask yourself why what used to be the norm has now become ‘pie in the sky’.

          • VioletEyes

            So your family relies on Tax Credits, Child Benefit, Housing Benefit and such if you are a low earner.

          • Coniston

            At one time most women did not have (paid) work. My father did not earn a large salary – he was a clerk, and he and my mother grew a lot of our food. The family had only one salary coming in, yet my parents were able to buy a detached house with a garden (not in London). No TV, washing machines, etc., but we went on annual holidays (in this country).
            One consequence, however, of nearly all women entering paid work (which was not a bad thing if they wished to do so) was that family incomes increased considerably. A good thing? Perhaps, but the downside was that house prices shot up very considerably. Single people could not afford to buy a house, and two salaries coming in became necessary (except for the very rich) for a couple to be able to buy a house of their own. With millions of immigrants arriving in this already over-populated country, the housing situation has just got worse. (The building developers are sitting on nearly half a million sites with planning permission, but they don’t want to build there – they wait for green-field sites which makes them more money).

  • Busy Mum

    “Generosity, benevolence, love, forgiveness, mercy and grace are far costlier than harshness, indifference, aloofness, coldness or absence.”

    The most costly thing a father has to do is to lay down the law and not give in, even when his natural instinct is to yield. This must be the most unselfish sacrifice and the hardest thing to do, and actually requires great faith, believing that long-term good must ensue, which will be worth every pang of the short-term anti-paternal feelings of the child.

    Government is to be blamed because it takes the side of the child and portrays the law-enforcing father as harsh, indifferent, aloof and cold.

    • VioletEyes


      The most costly thing a father has to do is to lay down the law and not give in, even when his natural instinct is to yield.

      It is so dangerous to families, to peddle this nonsense.

      I think you will find that most ‘fathers’ who take this approach, won’t last long in the family and will get little or no support from society and the family courts.

      • Busy Mum

        I agree that they get no support from society – and I would not be surprised if the day is fast coming that a father is in the dock for simply saying ‘No’.

  • Pete

    In contrast to some others in this thread, I am very much looking forward to the second part. As a recent father I’m learning how hard it is and how important it is, and I see lots of people around me who need help with being a father either right now or in the future. It’s something I’d like to help with, but not sure how!

    • Rob Slane

      Thanks so much for this Pete. It is hard, and I wish I had had more practical advice from good, loving fathers when I first became a father. I could have avoided a lot of errors. The second piece is very much aimed at those who are filled with a sense of how hard fatherhood is, and who want to do it better (and even with my six children, I am still very much in that category). I really hope it is helpful to you.

      Best,

      Rob

  • Groan

    I look forward to the next piece. I have to say the first appears hopelessly naïve. One need not look far in Europe or indeed within communities in the UK to see that “fatherlessness” is not evenly spread throughout “western” society. Where I do agree is that the organs of the state should withdraw from the current counter productive (unless one wants to break down society) interventions.
    Probably the single most important idea to promote is the idea that rights and responsibilities go together.

  • disqus_N9Jawtu8Uw

    My Father died when I was a child.

    In those times things were not the same as now. I was 10 years old and sent on a completely unexpected holiday. It was only when my Mother collected me that it was not only explained to me that Dad had died, and the funeral had already happened, but that we were moving house (the house we had was tied to Dad’s job as a teacher). It was a shock and a lot for a child to take on.

    These days people get lots of support – but not then. There was no support. I started in the final part of a Junior school and then, 1 year later moved to a boys grammar school (which later became a secondary school whilst I was there).

    The point is I am a Father to two sons and have taught myself to be a Father, I had NO example to follow. I cried when my youngest son became 16 because I had outlived my Father (and I still thought I would die young – which I haven’t) in every respect. I had been a Father to my sons (no girls) and a husband to my wife.

    My Father and Mother were the equivalent of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor – they couldn’t stand being apart but they also couldn’t stand being together!

    My wife and I have been married for 36 years yet each of my own brothers have divorced and remarried, but I have remained steadily in love with my wife.

    I say this because society around me absolutely hates men and hates marriage and hates families. Politicians and societies hate women who simply want to be Mothers and house builders and hates Fathers who simply want to form a family with the family’s Mother. Mainly behind this is the worry that the adults will be condemned for anything they get wrong. I had NO example to follow as either a husband or Father and yet being of the old-school type I just got on and did it. It can be done – Yet there is no encouragement. Perhaps what we can do is simply encourage Fathers and Husbands to BE simply Fathers and Husbands regardless of any mistakes made.

  • VioletEyes

    Family Courts are the real problem.

    This ‘sin’ tosh is for the fairies, particularly when according to Rob Slane it only applies to Fathers, what about Mothers sin?

    Until Fathers & Mothers are treated as equally important to their children in the family courts and by wider society, fatherlessness will continue to rise.

  • Russell

    The advice this article gives potential fathers is extremely dangerous to men in this current legal and cultural climate. Naive and dangerous beyond belief.