The Conservative Party’s Biggest Postwar Failure: Marriage | Edward Howard

“Make marriage in any serious degree unstable, dissoluble, destroy the permanency of marriage, and the church falls… The marriage-tie… is the fundamental link in the Christian society. Break it, and you will have to go back to the overwhelming dominance of the State, which existed before the Christian era. The Roman state was all-powerful” -D. H. Lawrence, 1929

In recent news, Conservative MP Nick Fletcher delivered a speech to a debate concerning International Men’s Day in Westminster Hall. In it, he discussed that one of the main problems that young men faced is the lack of male role models in contemporary society, both in general and in the cultural sphere. To highlight his point, he noted that there was much talk of how females should replace traditionally male roles in movies and television, of which in the end would only lead to the likes of Thomas Shelby from Peaky Blinders and the Kray Twins as role models for young men to look up to – to which Fletcher then noted, ‘Is there any wonder we are seeing so many young men committing crime?’

Of course, this nuanced point was then taken out of context by the usual spin doctors and outrage mobs to make it seem as if it was a trivial and dumb argument by a sexist Conservative MP complaining about the current Doctor Who being a female. In this case, it can be seen that the defence of the Jodie Whittaker/Chris Chibnall run of the show, widely regarded as a disaster by both fans and ratings wise, through this news story is twofold – the last-ditch attempt by progressive critics to salvage the end of an era of that show that despite having failed (even with the always excellent Whittaker’s earnest attempts to work with the questionable material that she was given) want to still be on the ‘right side of history’, and those who realise that Fletcher made a legitimate point of which having to address would contradict and upset the status quo that has kept those who benefit from it powerful and rich, and therefore it is better to make light of it by covering it as a bigoted Tory MP complaining about female representation in Doctor Who over actually addressing the point he was making.

It was a very sad affair, once again showing that a nuanced debate on such complex issues can simply be rubbished because it touches subject matters that many don’t want to discuss, allowing it to be mocked and vilified in the process.

But Fletcher is indeed right. Many young boys do lack good role models these days, with the likes of narcissistic and sociopathic reality TV show stars and social media influencers being the worst of the bunch, and sadly the most popular.

However, the likes of Fletcher, and indeed much of the Conservative Party at large miss a crucial point in all of this. Boys and young men do need good role models in life. But that isn’t simply limited to cultural figures or representation on already-established franchises. No, it instead starts from a more clear-cut place – having a good father in the house of which is part of a healthy family environment to grow up in.

This is undoubtedly the most important thing in a young boy’s life, and sadly has been trashed consistently for the past several decades as well as being undermined by legislation in that time frame. Such changes began with the case of Allen v. Allen – in which a POW returning from the Second World War was refused custody of his eight-year-old daughter by the Court of Appeal, after discovering that his wife was living with another man – removed the legal notion of ‘blame’ from custody cases, foreshadowing the endless series of marriage breakdowns following the war’s end, leading to demands for further reform. This sad era was crowned by the Divorce Reform Act 1969, of which made no-fault divorce the law of the land, and made the act of marriage (as famed conservative commentator Peter Hitchens noted) weaker than that of a contract with a ‘car leasing company’.

However, while it has been left-wing governments at the centre of this radical and poisonous change, it has also been without doubt the Conservative Party’s biggest failure in the postwar era, given that they have done virtually nothing to reverse these changes – something of which came to a head in 2020, whereby despite his 80-seat majority, Boris Johnson’s government passed the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act of 2020 – something of which was only opposed by 12 Conservative MPs.

Think about it. For all its undoubted faults, the pre-21st century Tory Party at least legitimately were good at holding the line on several issues crucial to the right.

On taxes, from the 1980s onwards, it was consistently reduced across the board, with both Margaret Thatcher’s and John Major’s respective governments reducing tax brackets from 33% in 1979 to 23% in 1997 for the basic rate. On law and order, they have at least shown it much more respect than much of the political left have ever done – during Thatcher’s era, riot police had improved equipment and standards as well as recruiting more police officers. Even on immigration, they still held the line, as when Michael Howard was Home Secretary in Major’s government (the last era that saw net negative flows of immigration) his Asylum Immigration Act 1996 cracked down on bogus asylum seekers and brought overall numbers in that regard down from 44K to 29K (maybe Priti Patel could take notes).

However, on the marriage issue, they have consistently failed to reverse the institution’s decline, and to make matters worse, don’t seem to care that it is the case. This is because every single Conservative government that has come to power since the disastrous 1969 Act have not only not reversed its worst effects, but they have actually aided them.

In Thatcher’s day, despite having pro-marriage ministers like Janet Young in her Cabinet and huge majorities, the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 was passed, of which reduced the waiting time for divorce petitions from 3 years to 1 and led to a massive increase in the divorce rate as a result. Major’s government in its dying days backed (despite a strong backbench rebellion) the Family Law Act 1996, of which allowed for a mediation period of 11 months after the statement of divorce came to be to remove fault from the proceedings, and to settle childcare matters. And of course, in 2020, Boris Johnson’s government have passed the even weaker Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act of 2020, whereby simply a statement of the marriage breaking down is good enough to start the proceedings.

Some of his MPs defended the Act by claiming that as conservatives, they supported ‘freedom’ – undoubtedly they do, in the Marcusian sense, but not in the conservative tradition of Edmund Burke whereby restraint and odes to tradition are key. The former type of ‘freedom’ is one Aldous Huxley warned against in Brave New World Revisited as it goes alongside ‘political and economic freedom’ dying, and paving ‘the way for totalitarian order’.

So, that is the sad state of the Conservatives on this issue – their elites don’t care for it at all, and when they’ve been in power, have often made the situation worse. This is why it’s legitimately nice to see when Conservative governments actually make the effort to aid the dying institution, like when in 1994, Gyles Brandreth’s Marriage Act allowed for it to be held in ‘approved premises’ beyond churches and register offices or when David Cameron’s government allowed for marriage tax breaks.

Admittedly, this isn’t completely surprising, given the hypocrisy of the Conservative Party establishment for decades on this issue – as the Mallard’s editor Jake Scott has noted on this, since the Profumo scandal of the early 1960s, any attempt by the Tories to be serious on issues concerning the collapse in marriage and the sexual revolution has fallen flat, because of how the reality conflicts with the supposed narratives, something which carried on into Major’s affair with Edwina Currie and MP James Gray’s cheating on his wife who was dying of cancer.

Boris Johnson fits this moniker too – after all, this is a man notorious for having many affairs, so much so that he doesn’t know how many children he has. As Hitchens also rightly noted, such a devious private life would mean that in an earlier era, politicians who were like that would have tried to hide out of fear of shame – this according to Hitchens, shows the changes of the British right in that time in accepting the sexual politics of what they once deemed the ‘loony left’ on London councils. Weak divorce laws aid sexually deviant men and women, as they enjoy their promiscuous behaviour without fear of either the law or general morality to target them for their vices. So is it any wonder why Johnson – the first Prime Minister in 250 years to divorce while in office after all – would back these changes, and would never change the status quo on them? 

Interestingly enough then, the most vocal defender of marriage and strong families was not of the British right, but of the left – that being Labour MP David Lammy. Before he became the cynical race hustler he is today, seemingly in a way to win over Corbynistas who would otherwise revile his Blairite politics, Lammy often spoke eloquently about the need for fathers in the home and strong families, noting that poverty and crime were often the results of a lack of them. This is because he himself is the unfortunate effect of such a system, with his father running out on him at a young age, and his area Tottenham being a run-down horror story caused in part by the collapse in marriage (which is something I can personally attest to, having lived near the Haringey area for many years) – most notably and movingly, he highlighted that when he visited the Feltham young offender institution and asked the inmates who had an ‘active father’, none of them put their hands up.

However, none of that matters to the radicals and the cynics on both sides of the political spectrum who would prefer to kill marriage rather than aid it.

On the left, many of them back the crazy cultural notion of which dates back to the 1960s that marriage is somehow enslaving to women, and that in order for them to be fully liberated, more of them should become investment bankers and career women in order to be better off, both financially and personally. Meanwhile, many of them also cynically hate the institution, knowing that it gives grounds to private life, and therefore gives people space of which they can’t control, or (worse still) contradict their ideas and challenge them at the ballot box or otherwise – something most blatantly seen with the Soviet Union’s glorification of the young peasant boy Pavlik Morozov of who ratted his father out to the authorities for counter-revolutionary thoughts, of which led the father to be sentenced to death in a labour camp, leading the boy to be killed by the rest of his family; thereby he showed his loyalty to the state above all else.

On the right, many feel that given that the individual is the most important person in public life that anything that distracts from personal freedom and hedonism is inherently bad and therefore is not important if it falls away – as Thatcher herself once noted, ‘…they are casting their problems on society… There is no such thing! There are individual men and women… no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.’ Meanwhile, many cynical neoliberals see that having more atomised, individualist workers is far more important to a company’s bottom line and its shareholders, and a nation’s GDP, than families raising their own children, so encouraging families is a bad thing if the end goal is ‘good business’.

So, as we can see, there is a cynical alliance between the progressive left and neoliberal right to undermine marriage, for the former’s social, radical, authoritarian and progressive change and the latter’s economic growth priorities with big business, all the while both sides still believe (or pretend to do so) that the year is still 1961, and that society is still stacked up against women, and that the crippling sexism of stringent marriage laws is the issue, and so must be repealed immediately – something even our moronic cultural leaders also parrot.

But of course in the long haul, family breakdown is in no way good for society, either morally and practically.

In a 2006 report by the Centre for Social Justice titled ‘Fractured Families’, it was noted that since 1970, the number of marriages had fallen by 35% in England and Wales, that there was 52% fewer new marriages up to 2004 and that divorces increased to 150K per annum up to 1980. Meanwhile, co-habitation had massively increased, single motherhood had increased to encompass 8% of single women aged 18-35 (the highest in Europe by far) and that teenage motherhood had also become a huge problem. The result, according to the study, noted that one of the reasons for the 25-fold increase in crime between 1950 and 2003 was the lack of ‘empathy’ among adolescents who gave into petty criminality due to family breakdown disrupting their ‘attachment patterns’, and they were far more likely to give into alcohol and substance abuse.

None of this is surprising, and sometimes this can occasionally erupt in the worst ways – as Cristina Odone noted in the Telegraph during the 2011 London riots, those involved had ‘no father at home’. Meanwhile, none of this is popular with the British public either; a 2018 poll noted that two thirds of British adults feel that family breakdown is a serious problem, and 70% believe that it is important for children to grow up with both parents. 

So, if the Conservative Party wants to solve this problem, they need to start treating it as one, especially since the married family has been one of the core tenets of preserving and sustaining any healthy society, which should make it one of the core pillars of conservatism as a movement. While the Tories aren’t the only right-wing party in the West to have failed to notice this, they should at the very least stop aiding its decline if they are serious in wanting to restore what is good about Britain. They should also stop running away from the issue of family breakdown, under the guise that the left calls their policies part of a ‘war on single mothers’, something of which cynical ‘modernising’ Tories have always pandered to – most blatantly displayed by former MP and minister David Willetts time and time again. It is about time we stop pandering to the cynical and nonsensical word games of the left, and start to defend the most important values in our society. The actions of the current Polish and Hungarian governments in encouraging marriage and having children financially are good examples for this Conservative government to follow.

Because at the end of the day, the only people who benefit from this policy are Labour councils of who electorally profit from keeping a cycle of intergenerational poverty (of which allows for those who cheat and exploit the system to keep voting for them) and upper-class career women who are more interested in their stock options and promotions than the possibility of raising the next generation – not the working and the middle classes who need it the most.

If the Conservative Party are to maintain their support among such people they need to start doing things that are good for them. To paraphrase Tucker Carlson, if you want to put Britain first, you need to start putting its families first. And surely that is a far more important debate to have than what the gender of the next Doctor Who is.

Photo Credit.

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