TCW’s Co-Editor Kathy Gyngell has responded to today’s Queen’s Speech, writing for the Telegraph. Instead of supporting what remains of the traditional family, David Cameron’s feminised government has destabilised it even further…
It was written all over his face as he attentively sat forward to hear his Government’s new legislative programme read out. David Cameron still wants to hug a hoodie. He still wants to go down in history as the Conservative Party’s greatest social reformer, a quest he set out on in 2006.
He’s been desperate to prove that he is just as compassionate as the liberal Guardian reading MPs sitting opposite.
He’s seen social reform as the means by which he could detoxify his party. Conservatives can be compassionate too.
Indeed they can. But not if they adopt the Polly Toynbee bible for “breaking down the barriers to opportunity”. Ten years ago, Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice daringly rejected the idea that poverty and disadvantage were driven by economic inequality. Bravely, he asserted they were driven by culture – by the decline of marriage, by the rise of cohabitation and the rise and rise of fatherless families – aided and abetted by government policy. For two weeks he had the nation compelled.
The Left were left teetering on the edge of their moral high ground. Temporarily.
Once in power, Cameron fell at the first hurdle. He missed his once in a lifetime opportunity to be a radical conservative social reformer. He turned his back on the country’s marriage crisis and instead took on the mantras of the feminist liberal Left.
Step by step, Mr Cameron adopted a “Blairite” high cost “state intervention” social reform agenda. Ever earlier intervention, getting single mums into work however young their infants, round the clock childcare; all came straight from Labour’s inequality and poverty playbook.
A “path that leads to quotas, positive discrimination and the other interventions they associate with the Left,” as James Kirkup commented after Cameron’s last autumn party conference speech – fundamentally an un-Conservative path.
Today, the nominal “academisation” of six prisons – billed as the biggest shake-up of the prison service since Victorian times – was the centre piece of his updated social reform agenda.
This prison academy wheeze and the league tables that will accompany it removed the public’s focus from the facts:
Contrary to received wisdom the prison population is not rising. It has not since 2003 despite significant population growth in the period since. It has changed though. The number of young male Muslims has grown disproportionately to over 12,000 of a stable 85,000 population and there is also a more serious mix of violent and sex offenders. Take away the further 11, 000 foreign nationals in our prisons and the situation would not be so unmanageable.
Prison academies will neither address this nor the causes of ever more violent crime.
Underlying the problem of the repeat offending is the same cycle of family dysfunction that thrusts infants and children into the care system in the first place – sending, in turn, young men straight into Young Offenders Institutes
Mr Cameron might think he has a grip on it by giving them a second chance. He should concentrate on their first chance by actively discouraging single parenthood through the tax and benefit system. He should also take on the feminisation of the education system that has left swathes of young men marginalised, unemployed and unmarriagible and without a role of responsibility.
Last week’s Office of National Statistics marriage statistics for 2013 revealed yet another shocking fall in marriage rates. Marriage Foundation research from the Family Resources Survey shows that marriage is increasingly the preserve of the rich. This is a damning indictment of a government that purports to promote social justice and to believe in marriage.
For children a married home start is the key basis of health and happiness as well as social mobility.
But Mr Cameron has proved too chicken – or frankly too flakey – to promote marriage and to genuinely create fairer opportunities for children.
This is the one social reform that could have both a long term impact on the country’s children “in care'”and adoption crisis – the very children with the most chance of ending up in prison. It would have been an unambiguous commitment to tackle the disincentive to marriage in the tax system.
It was not there.
The PM would rather seek the approval of the irresponsible Left than of the long suffering socially responsible and socially conservative Right.
So instead of shoring up and supporting what remains of the family, Cameron’s feminised government has only intervened more deeply, further destabilising family life leaving boys and men most on the receiving end of this injustice.