One of the most interesting weekend stories appeared in Saturday’s Telegraph. In yet another example of Copycat Labour we learnt that Chief Secretary to the Treasury Andy Burnham conceded that there were moral arguments for using the tax system to encourage marriage. Had he cleared this with Harriet Harman, I wonder? The feminist Ms Harman has attacked David Cameron’s support for marriage as ‘back to basics in a open necked shirt’.
If Mr Burnham is genuine it is hugely to be welcomed. The evidence for the importance of marriage for the upbringing of children is overwhelming and a cross-party consensus in favour of rebuilding the family would be very valuable for child welfare and for the war on poverty.
There are many people who can be credited for making marriage fashionable again within policy circles. Guy Hordern of the Renewing One Nation project (2000 to 2003) is one person who has campaigned on these issues for at least twenty years. Dr Samantha Callan, who chaired Iain Duncan Smith’s family policy taskforce, is another. One of the first and most effective champions was Jill Kirby (pictured). Jill has authored a number of papers for the Centre for Policy Studies that have set out the case for rebuilding the two parent family and marriage, in particular. Her Broken Hearts paper (pdf) was, perhaps, the breakthrough publication. Over the last six years Jill Kirby has chaired the CPS’ working party on social and family policy. She was also a member of Lord Forsyth’s Tax Reform Commission.
The CPS, founded by Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph in 1974, has announced that Jill Kirby is to replace Ruth Lea as its Director when Ruth steps down on 5th November. Ruth, will stay as a CPS Board Member, but will focus upon developing Global Vision – the campaigning think tank established earlier this year to advocate a looser UK-EU relationship. Jill has promised to defend the CPS’ principles and contend for a Britain where the frontiers of the state are rolled back and families enjoy more control over their own lives. I regard Jill as a friend and am personally thrilled at her appointment. I have no doubt that she’ll be a very successful and innovative Director.
On Friday ConservativeHome set out some of the challenges facing centre right think tanks.