Labour believes that Tory support for marriage is an electoral weak point. Harriet Harman was hysterical on the subject at the weekend.
David Cameron addressed the subject yesterday in a speech to Gingerbread, the leading pressure group representing single parents in the UK.
Repeating a phrase first used by David Willetts he insisted that the Conservative Party would never be at war with lone mothers:
"The discussion about families is often reduced to a black and white debate. You’re either for one model of the family or another. You’re either an evangelist for the 1950s nuclear family or you think that traditional structures are redundant in the modern world. I say that families come together in many different ways and we should be there for all of them.
Indeed I stood up at our party conference a few years ago and said that as far as I am concerned commitment matters whether it’s between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman. To me, a strong family is defined most of all by the love that’s in it. I don’t think this is incompatible with our support for committed relationships.
Most people don’t start a relationship with the hope it will end. So I believe we need to do more to help where we can. That’s why my Party will back marriage in the tax system and end the couple penalty that pays people to live apart rather than together.
But – and let me be very clear about this – the flip side of this coin isn’t disapproval of those who don’t stay together. I get the real world. Sometimes, however hard you try, a relationship is not going to work. That can be very sad – but it would be cruel and callous to compound that sadness by treating single parent families in any way differently.
So I want to be completely clear: lone parents will not be on their own with the Conservatives. There is not – and never will be – a war on single parents. In fact far from taking the Conservative Party back into some comfort zone, I have expressly explained that we will give practical, meaningful support to every family in this country in a range of different ways, including through positive state action…
…indeed my claim that we will be the most family friendly party is because we are prepared to combine state action with social action and action on tax and benefits, with helping both at work and at home.
Just to give you a couple of examples, we’re going to increase the number of health visitors, so that parents have the support of a professional in the home – particularly during those first few months with a new baby. And we’ll improve Sure Start so that it better involves community groups and charities and sharpens its focus on the most vulnerable."