Many Tories do not like the way David Cameron talks about his homelife and, in particular, about his severely disabled son, Ivan. They think it seems too Blairite. Too insubstantial. They certainly won’t like the Tory leader’s Father’s Day declaration, in The Sunday Times, that "whatever I do or don’t achieve in politics, nothing matters as much as my family". Such fatherhood and apple pie talk offends those who think that politics should only be about policy announcements and debate. I’m with David Cameron, however.
While there is something risky about voting for someone simply because of their perceived character or hinterland, that’s what voters do. Election after election America has elected the most likeable of the competing presidential candidates.
Tuesday will see David Cameron deliver a big speech on the family to the National Family and Parenting Institute. It is reported that he will promise help for gay couples, support for families with child care; aid to help families make ends meet and policies to deliver safe environments for children.
Support for marriage – despite the objections of Tim Yeo
and Michael Portillo – looks set to be a key ingredient of Tory family
policy but it is unlikely that there will be major policy commitments
for a year – at least until after the family working party of Iain
Duncan Smith’s Social Justice Policy Group has reported. Making the
family a component of the party’s social justice agenda was tactically
astute. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has noted,
the breakdown of the family is a "life and death" issue in the inner
cities. Strong families are the best – and most neglected – weapon we
have in the war on poverty.
If framing the family as a social justice
issue is tactically astute then emphasising fatherhood is also clever.
Too often Tory politicians have looked to be anti-single mums when
rightly highlighting the importance of two parent and, ideally, married
families. Talking about the problem of absent fathers is a superior
way of addressing this tricky issue. Why pick on the mums who are still with their kids when the real problem is often absent dads?
The case for marriage is now widely accepted across American politics and academia. Much of the consensus was built by the National Fatherhood Initiative.
The Initiative – through inspirational advertising campaigns like the
one at the bottom of this post – increased cultural understanding of the
importance of fathers in young lives – particularly in boys’ lives.
Step two of the wider fatherhood campaign has been to emphasise the
importance of men helping mothers raise children in stable, married
environments. As founder of the UK’s Care for the Family,
Rob Parsons, has said – the best thing a father can give his children
is to love their mother.
There may not be much policy beef in
Tuesday’s speech but by emphasising social justice and fatherhood,
David Cameron is laying solid foundations for a sustainable
Conservative family policy.