Conservatism and the family
Posted by Matt Walker on January 20, 2010
An important aspect of conservative ideology is a strong belief in the nuclear family. It is believed that the presence of both mother and father is absolutely necessary to successfully bring up children.
If, for example, father is not present, then children will lack the necessary male role model in their life, will be ill-disciplined, and more likely to behave poorly, possibly right through to adulthood. From this point of view, crime is the result of family breakdown.
Today’s Conservative Party still holds to this view. If they win the next election the Tories plan to introduce a tax allowance for married couples, although they are a little unclear about the timing of such a tax reform. David Cameron has said about this policy, that "if you take responsibility you will be rewarded, if you don’t you won’t". In other words, the only responsible family unit is the nuclear family.
Labour’s Ed Balls has accused the Conservatives of ‘social engineering’. He means that the Tories are planning to change society – in this case the nature of the family – by offering tax cuts for certain types of behaviour.
But I think it is Nick Clegg’s response which catches the imagination. He said: “It is immensely unfair. What does it mean for the poor woman who has been left by some philandering husband who goes on to another marriage and gets the tax break and she doesn’t?"
Do you think governments should try to influence behaviour in this way? Is the nuclear family morally superior to say, the single parent family?