Sam Coates and I spoke too soon. On Thursday night’s edition of ConservativeHome TV (watch it here) we welcomed the fact that Labour had not attacked David Cameron’s emphasis on the family. We hoped that – finally – Labour was willing to accept the overwhelming evidence that most children do better when a mother and father are active in their lives. On top of that there is also the fact that mother-father involvement is more likely to be reliable if the couple are married. David Cameron has had the courage to embrace Iain Duncan Smith’s evidence on marriage and Labour’s silent response appeared to suggest that – in their hearts – the Government knew that family breakdown was a root cause of underachievement, crime and incivility.
The front page of today’s Observer suggests that Labour are about to return to their old ways. And they are old ways. Alan Johnson is apparently going to warn that family policy should not be based on ‘the prejudices of yesterday’s generation’ but he is the one with throwback views. Saying that marriage and fatherhood didn’t matter was plausible in the 1960s but the evidence has now poured in and that evidence says that marriage and fatherhood are among the most important weapons we have in building social justice.
The only thing that can be said for Labour’s Woodstock warriors is that they are still capable of a good soundbite. Harriet Harman tells the Observer that Cameron’s arguments amount to ‘Back to Basics in an open-necked shirt.’ Nice line from Labour’s wannabe Deputy Leader but a terrible disservice to Mr Cameron’s arguments and to her Peckham constituents. If she really cared about them she’d be arguing for policies that would encourage more active parenting and the institution of marriage. Unfortunately a pro-fatherhood, pro-marriage consensus will have to wait until the Labour left cease the party politics.
Labour like to think of themselves as the party of social justice. They need to understand that you cannot be the party of social justice and be opposed to the family.