Sir Paul Coleridge’s devastating account of the decline of marriage and the inexorable rise of lone parenthood and cohabitation should give Mrs May’s ‘social reform’ team at Number Ten pause for thought.
What’s crystal clear is that Britain’s rising level of illegitimacy – a word made taboo by the Left – is socially catastrophic. On the scale it is today, it drives ever more children ‘into poverty’. It is the cause of this modern evil – the so-called ‘child poverty’ that the Left have artfully characterised as the sin of income inequality.
The truth is that the sin is that of the parents – of disastrous lifestyle choices that decades of welfarism and a ‘thou shalt not stigmatise’ threat has encouraged. What more cunning claim could the Left have made to the moral high ground?
Resistance to such analysis is huge. Political correctness took us into a post-truth world years ago, when the Left first took the Right hostage on the traditional family.
I knew that when I was invited onto The Big Questions last week to counter received poverty wisdom.
“What do you mean women are married to the State?” demanded the oh-so-ingenuous Nicky Campbell, as though lone mothers received their state-provided income by immaculate gift, not from the taxpayer.
He was treating the Child Poverty Action Group’s call for new child poverty targets with huge and virtuous concern. Where the extra money was to come from he did not ask, nor did he challenge the premise of their solution. That was left to me, the token social conservative.
My conservative colleagues, MEP Dan Hannan and Christopher Snowden, Head of Lifestyle Economics at IEA, weren’t much help. Their line was to deny the problem, citing economic evidence that showed the poverty gap was narrowing.
That’s as may be. But it dodged the issue that modern poverty is not about money but about destructive behaviours – that the State sponsors.
Government should be in the dock, not for being mean but for ignoring children’s real needs: for condemning three million children of Britain’s 1.8 million lone mother households to fatherlessness, to family breakdown, and to the greater of risk of mortality, ill health, behaviour problems, school failure, drink and drugs and crime. These are all things that their parents’ lifestyles inflict on them, cruelties that Government has enabled and perpetuated.
This is not 1950s’ poverty. Then just one child in 20 was born out of wedlock. It is not even 1970s’ poverty, though wimmins’ lib drove the illegitimacy rate up to one in ten. The 50 per cent of children born to single mothers today is a disaster of this continued liberalism.
Gordon Brown’s grand new tax credits initiative put the final nail in children’s coffin. It replaced child tax and married couple allowances and family income support taking away their chances of security and stability. It conflated, in tax support terms, the working married poor with the non-working and lone parent poor – leveling out their ‘incomes’ whether earned or unearned. Far from thinking the unthinkable on lone parents, Gordon set the lifestyle in stone.
He and his arch-feminist advisers more than anyone else are responsible for what Patricia Morgan once described, brutally but truly, as ‘shack up’ families.
As these families ‘flourished’, child neglect went up. So have the numbers of children in care. So has child unhappiness and mental ill health.
The 21st century solution so far has been to nationalise childcare – let the State take over where parents fail – to live the lie that children benefit from daycare from as early as possible.
Far from being a panacea, this undermines maternal responsibility and competence further. From Sure Start through to Louise Casey’s Troubled Families scheme, early intervention has proved a busted flush.
But the Conservatives, fearful of the Left’s demonisation and driven by the desire to turn mothers into productivity numbers, have gone along with it. Worklessness is the sole evil on their radar.
Yet the idea that fatherlessness doesn’t matter and family forms are equal are costly and cruel lies. American author and columnist Ann Coulter for one refuses to swallow it. “If a woman who gets pregnant out of wedlock wants to do the best thing for her child”, she told an audience of 100 single feminist mums recently, “she’d give it up for adoption”, shocking them into silence.
UK research tells us how much marriage matters, and most of all when it comes to boys. Is it surprising that boys with fathers have higher self-esteem, knowing who they ‘belong’ to and who their relations are? When they don’t have to bear the brunt of unstable, ‘blended’ family life and mother’s boyfriends or half or step sibs foisted on them?
Britain is socially ‘bifurcated’, a gap that is set to get wider between the ever fewer socially and economically advantaged families, who continue to marry, and state-supported single-parent, female-headed households, which cluster among the most socially and economically disadvantaged ranks of the population.
That’s unless post-Brexit Britain abandons the Left’s state interventionist ‘compensation’ model that breeds irresponsibility, incompetence, dependence and hopelessness.
Allister Heath is right – the demise of the welfare state is the defining issue of our time. The State cannot spend ever more for shoddy results.
Nothing is shoddier than the State’s ‘care’ for children and takeover of the family. So why then, in his list of collective welfarism that has to go, does Allister avoids mentioning this, the most damaging example of ‘spending somebody else’s money on other people’.
Why the timidity? Does social liberalism trump that most fundamental of individual responsibilities – where sex is concerned?
Mrs May cannot afford to be so mealy mouthed.
What chances otherwise are there of reversing Frank Field’s and Alan Milburn’s (Conservative-commissioned) flawed but costly ‘nationalisation of children’ solutions and the poverty their infantilised parents’ lifestyles will continue to inflict.
Growing up in a single-parent household, as Iain Duncan Smith says, is a form of poverty. Yet his controversial Universal Credit reform addresses neither illegitimacy nor lone parenthood. This £35 billion per annum tax credit juggernaut continues to enable and sustain it.
David Cameron ducked the issue despite ever more evidence pointing to the price of lone parenthood published while he was PM. He even, reportedly, made Mr Duncan Smith’s successor cut from a speech an adjuration that politicians do a ‘huge disservice’ if they are ‘neutral on family structure’.
The problem is that the Conservatives have been far from neutral. In thrall to decades of leftism and feminism, they have sanctioned the worst possible choices parents could make for children.