I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. It’s the nature of being an incurable optimist. Assuming the best also means having to deal with disappointment.
All of the parties have completely ignored family stability as an issue. Yes, there’s lots of good stuff in the manifestos written and spoken about family issues such as children’s physical and mental health, and domestic violence.
Yet despite the fact that Britain has the highest rate of family instability in the developed world, none of the parties have anything to say about it. Zero.
Just in case you need a spot of robust up-to-date evidence for why this might matter, a major new UK study published in the February issue of Social Science and Medicine shows how the effect of parents splitting up on children’s mental health is equivalent to the effect of moving into poverty.
That’s quite a finding and one that ought to merit a mention in our public policy. But no, nothing.
Anyway, back to the Cabinet,.whose manifesto doesn’t even mention the word “marriage” (as a key protective factor) nor “family breakdown” (as a key risk factor).
This should be deeply surprising because, as my new research for Marriage Foundation reveals, all but three of the 27 Cabinet members are married! Of the three who aren’t, two have been married, and one is gay. So in their personal lives, 89% of Cabinet members are currently married. All bar one have been married at some stage.
At a personal level, marriage seems pretty important to the Cabinet.
How about Cabinet constituents? Using data from the 2011 Census, families in their constituencies are disproportionately likely to be married and unlikely to be lone parents.
Whereas 58% of families with children in the average constituency in England and Wales are headed by married parents and 27% by lone parents, Cabinet constituencies comprise 65% married families – well above average – and 21% lone parent families – well below average.
Compared to the least stable inner city areas, the difference is very substantial. Cabinet constituents are twice as likely to be married and less than half as likely to be lone parents.
So in their own personal choices and in the constituencies they represent, Cabinet members recognise the importance of marriage in creating stable committed families.
Marriage is good enough for them. So why on earth is it not good enough for public policy?
In the run up to the election on June 8, it’s worth asking your local candidates – of all parties – why their manifesto has nothing to say about family stability.
I’ll bet its important to them personally.