By Paul Goodman

Screen shot 2010-07-14 at 08.06.08Guido Fawkes wrote yesterday that Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat
Education Minister, may
blow her top during a teachers' union lobby of Parliament next Monday

– and assail the Building Schools for the Future reductions being
introduced by her own Department.  If she did so yesterday during a
speech she gave to the Family and Parenting Institute (FPI), the
Guardian doesn't say so this morning, but it does report that she
described marriage policy as one of the few areas of substantial
difference between the Coalition partners
, and said that she'd "no
idea" when the promised marriage tax break would be implemented.

So far, so predictable: Liberal Democrat says she disagrees with Tory
policy (on which her Party, under the terms of the Coalition Agreement,
will abstain in Parliament).  However, the Guardian goes on to report
that the acting Chairman of the Centre for Social Justice, Samantha
Callan, then suggested that the tax break may be held over until the
next Parliament.  "I
don't think it will happen quickly, for several reasons," she's
reported to have said. "Why
set the cat among the pigeons?"  Ms Callan suggested that the Coalition
believes it more important first to eliminate the couples penalty in
the tax credit system.

There are two possibilites.  The first is that Ms Callan has inside
information about a Treasury plan to renege on a commitment plainly set
out in the Coalition Agreement.  This is possible, but extremely
unlikely.  The second is that she believes that the Department of Work
and Pensions – about which she's well informed – attaches a high
priority to fixing a problem which affects couples on tax credits (and
not just married ones).  I would put my money on the second.  I know Ms
Callan very slightly: she's a long-standing commitment to social justice
– as Iain Duncan Smith can attest – and has had good relations with the
Party for a long time.

She may also have been mindful of her audience.  The
FPI was set up by the last Labour Government and has a left-of-centre
.  Its Chair is Fiona Millar, Alistair Campbell's partner and
committed opponent of Tony Blair's academies.  An ex-Labour Minister is
one of its trustees (Chris Pond, my old opposite number from Work and
Pensions days, and a longstanding campaigner: the FPI's website suggests
that he's also running a quango.)  It's been in hot water before, when
its Chief Executive said that the
days of the 'typical family" are numbered

Whatever the answer may be, this episode demonstrates the Guardian's
determination to disturb the settled policy of the Coalition on
marriage.  Its report refers again to the Institute of Fiscal Studies
report claiming that marriage doesn't make relationships more stable – an
assertion rebutted recently on this site by Harry Benson
.  I wasn't
at the FPI Conference, but wouldn't be surprised if Teather's remarks
were concentrated on SureStart – the Coalition wants to focus it on
deprived families – rather than marriage.  (Her views on SureStart were
reported near the end of the Guardian's story.)  The paper's entitled to
believe that Britain should be one of the few countries in Europe not
to recognise marriage.  And the Government's at liberty to disagree – as
it does, and is signed up to doing.

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