Nick de Bois is the Member of Parliament for Enfield North and a Secretary of the 1922 Committee. Follow Nick on Twitter.
Yes, I think it's plainly daft that a couple
earning £300,000 a year will get help for childcare. It also plays into the
hands of Labour's narrative that the Conservatives are "out of touch", and ultimately detracts from what is a policy that will help millions of low to
middle income families get back to work by helping with child care fees.
It is of course frustrating that the politics of such policy announcements are
not managed with well thought-out communication strategies so that, frankly, what
should be "fringe" arguments don't dominate the narrative. The fact
that it is probably cheaper to pay a small group of people on whacking great
joint incomes child care vouchers rather than introduce a means tested
bureaucracy to exclude them is lost on the public because the case was not made
and the politics not addressed. The fact remains that George Osborne's childcare plans plans will have cheered up an awful lot of young parents on middle
to low incomes where both parents want to work.
That we have seemingly angered the stay at home parent, is regrettable but
inevitable if policies do not support a clear, robustly-argued vision,
namely that Conservatives believe in family and will support family. We need
look no further than August 2011 for the most recent evidence as to why family
is so important to shaping our future.
Two years on from the riots, last month saw the publication
of the formal report into them, After the Riots – which investigated their causes, and reflected on what can be done to build greater social resilience in communities. The report pointed in part to the role that parenting and early childhood influences plays in
shaping young lives. The Government understand this, and should not fight shy of
promoting strong family values across social policy, education and
employment policy and, most definitely, through the tax system.
Until then, critics will inevitably pick on one policy announcement after
another in isolation, and highlight its weaknesses – if we fail to convince them
and the public that we are committed to a series of measures that strengthen
and value 'family' as a cornerstone of a stable and indeed progressive
society. Without that strong message, all that is happening is that the monetary value of one
policy is being compared to another – with the inevitable unflattering response.
That the present debate is about mums at home being worth £150 a year whilst working mums are valued at £1200 is just another recent unfortunate
By changing the terms of the debate, we will show up Labour's opportunist swipes
and bring parent and family groups with us – and not let important policy
announcements being dominated by criticisms on the fringes. Measures designed to both ease the pressures on cost of living, help people back into
work and above all strengthen and recognise the influence and responsibility of
family life should be a powerful legacy of a Conservative-led government.