Wednesday, 23 July 2008

It's a man's, man's, man's world

David Willets from the Tory shadow cabinet speaking on apprenticeships in today's Telegraph:

"If we want stable families there has to be a man holding down a good job on a decent wage."

Quite how he squares this with his 'feminist manifesto' applauded by Polly Toynbee in 2003, I'm not sure. Or is this simply another example of how, having established the 'Cuddly Conservative' brand, the party is now rapidly reverting to type?


DaveA said...

Frankly I think Willets is right. It is not by accident that 250,000 years of anthropology that men leave the cave/house in the morning and returns with the spoils at the end of the day. This has model has served mankind since our birth. It is not a coincidence in my opinion that feminism, and the liberal society has overseen a breakdown of the family, with the requisite crime and social disorder and low birth rate that goes with it. Professional do gooders like Harman, Jowell and Hewitt might live in a hermetically sealed world, burning with indignation at anyone with a phallus, but the rest of us have to live in the real world. In my experience even strong feminists: my ex partner who I never married and have two teenage children with, is an ex SWP and Trotskyite with an MSc from Cambridge in Theoretical Physics, still enjoyed playing wifey and having a self opinionated bloke about. From my experience at a working class level there probably needs to be some more feminism. The way I have seen some men treat their partners is disgraceful, while at a middle class level, it is cringing seeing intelligent men being treated like doormats. I have yet to find any man or woman who is not proud of their kids and say it is the best thing they have done. So the status quo has much to commend it.

Anonymous said...

The party that's awarded women 52 weeks maternity leave and fathers just 2 weeks paternity leave to be lecturing us on the finer points of work and gender politics is a bit rich.

Kerry said...

But what the spate of articles over the last few weeks have by and large omitted to mention is that mothers can transfer the last 6 months of their maternity leave to fathers, should they wish to return to work early. I don't think it would be reasonable to expect business to shoulder the burden of giving both men and women 12 months leave - so any other solution would involve giving the woman less. This way, if a woman wants to return to work and the man wants to take time out to be with his child, they can.

Kerry said...

Actually I should perhaps have made it clearer that these provisions, although included in the Work and Families Act 2006, have not yet fully come into effect. I think the Govt's stated aim was that they would be implemented by the end of this Parliament. Discussions as to the detail are still ongoing.

DaveA said...

Kerry, I think I have been a little churlish on this one. I do not like regulation, especially of business and tend to rail against any interference by government in very hard working wealth creators. However Sweden has very liberal employment policies on families and it seems to work well there.

Without reaching for the pencil brush moustache and an overwhelming desire to invade Poland, anything that encourages British people to start or have larger families is to be welcomed. Sweden is at the static population standard of two while the UK I think is 1.89.

I do not want any shortfall made up by immigration.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you corrected your earlier assertion and confirmed that, as things stand, men in the UK have the worst paternity rights in Europe with a measly two weeks off.

Even Nicola Brewer, the chief executive of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (hardly a raging Tory), has said current maternity/paternity arrangements enforce the stereotype that women care for kids and men are the breadwinners.

At this stage I think most of us will believe New Labour's promise of improved paternity rights when we see them. They've been promising to do something since about 1994 when Blair was elected leader.

As for the 6 month transfer arrangements you refer to that are not yet implemented, even these are a cop out over handing statutory leave to men.

Given the macho culture of presenteeism in many workplaces, how many men will have the nerve to take what will be perceived as voluntary leave and what will it do to their careers compared to those that don't take it?

sued said...

Interesting when you look around the workplace and see how many men have made the career sacrifice involved in working part time, which women do as a matter of routine. The only solution is for men and women to work part time when they become parents, and stop obsessing about maximising earnings. Full time working is an expensive option in terms of time the kids don't see their absent parent(s), and the general high cost of maintaining a home where nobody has time to do anything useful maintenance-wise. I believe Denmark uses this model, where parents share domestic and external labour, and are much more stable as a result. Sadly, it takes more than a bit of government interference for this to happen, it needs a real shift on the part of men...

Glenn Vowles said...

I'm with sued on this one.

David Willets is living in the past and wants our society to go back to the past.

Anonymous said...

I think you'll find Danish wages are considerably higher than here in the UK.

I doubt the the 50% of households on or below median income could afford "a real shift on the part of men" resulting in the loss of berween one third and a half of their income while trying to bring up a family.

It's simply not realistic.

Anonymous said...

If you look at the context of the comment you'll see the issue he is addressing is that of "jobless fathers" It would have been better if he had recognised that Father's can in fact bring up children too, but it makes him no worse than the Labour government as illustrated by the current provision for paternity leave (by the way if you haven't implemented something Kerry then it might as well not exist).

If Labour actually recognised the role Fathers can play in a child's upbringing than Harriet Harman wouldn't have Father 4 Justice protested camped out on her roof every month.

And talking of dear Harriet - it was less than a week ago that Kerry was defending Ms Harman's sexist hate speech in where she finds it funny that the result of her policies would be for men to flee the country.

Talk about double standards!

Kerry said...

It's usual practice for measures to be broadly set out in the enacting legislation and then require delegated legislation or other further action before they're fully implemented. The Government indicated this week that they might well actually go further than the original proposals - i.e. make the 6 month transfer more flexible. One of the things being discussed this weekend in Warwick.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Are Labour going to give Fathers rights of access to their children? Superman & Batman requested that I ask you, they say that Labour have been ignoring them.

Anonymous said...

I'll second that question - would be nice to hear a Labour politician discuss the issue for once rather than pretend it doesn't exist.

(To be fair - the likes of David Cameron haven't exact been particularly pleasant to fathers either).

Kerry said...

The clear thrust of where the Tories are going is back to the days of stigmatising single mothers - remember Peter Lilley's "little list" anyone? - which ended up badly backfiring on them - remember Cecil Parkinson? Tim Yeo?

Anyway, as to contact/ residence rights (which are the terms used these days instead of access and custody). You have to be very careful not to over-generalise. Admittedly some - a minority - of parents do not comply with informal or formal contacts arrangements. Sometimes they are happy to take maintenance, but still make contact difficult. (The most tricky cases are where in theory there is an amicable agreement, but one parent messes the other around at the last minute - but that could be the mother or father),

Equally, some parents are prevented from having contact with their offspring for very good reasons; e.g. children's charities, police and teachers have told me of women who have left abusive partners, only for their former partners to use contact with the child as a way of tracking down the mother - so if the father has to meet the child at a neutral location, he will sometimes hang around afterwards waiting for the mother to turn up to collect the child and then stalk her.

There was a big campaign a couple of years ago for there to be an 'equal parenting presumption' in legislation going through parliament. Lots of lobbying to get MPs to sign an EDM in support. I got an email from distressed grandparents whose son was close to suicide because his drug-addicted former partner wouldn't let him see his child. Only thing was, at the time I was sharing an office with another MP - and he got a virtually identical email. When we checked out the home addresses, they were false, and when we emailed back the grandparents offering our help to resolve the case - no reply. So I've learnt to be slightly sceptical...

Anyway, the campaign meant that over 200 MPs signed the EDM, but I didn't, because I believe very strongly that the presumption should be that the CHILD has equal contact with each parent; a subtle difference, but it means decisions are made on the basis that it's what's in the best interests of the child that matters most.

But the Govt does recognise there are problems, e.g. there was a review of the family courts last year, and now there's more of an emphasis on in-court conciliation. Last week the DWP announced that both parents should always be named on birth certificates unless of course the father is unknown(and I assume there'd be exceptions for rape, incest, etc?), and that there should be a complete disregard of maintenance payments when it comes to calculating benefits - which will remove the disincentive to non-resident parents to carry on paying maintenance.

Anonymous said...

"Over 200 MPs signed the EDM"

How many over 200?

5?, 10?, 25?, 50?

...or was it perhaps 162 over?

Yes 362 MPs signed it - i.e. the majority.

Kerry said...

OK, I knew it was a lot - but couldn't be bothered to look it up. You're right that most MPs signed it - and when you take into account the fact that Government ministers, whips and a lot of PPSs don't sign EDMs, it was the vast majority of those eligible to do so. But I would wager that most of them took it at face value and signed it for an easy life because they were coming under so much pressure - I may well have done so myself if I hadn't had a very alert researcher, who already knew the other side of the argument.

Glenn Vowles said...

Bristol Blogger said 'I doubt the the 50% of households on or below median income could afford "a real shift on the part of men"..'

There may be a money issue for some but its about much, much more than that. I dont seem to meet a lot of males in and around where I live in Knowle who are that enlightened about roles they could/should play to say the least!!

All the research shows that what kids needs from parents, male or female, more than anything, is real and quality time. We cant afford not to give kids the time they need.

Yes, there are financial and organisational realities to be addressed and we need to organise society to enable all people to give their kids time they but there many, many parents who simply dont give their kids the time they need and who substitute material provision (eg telly/computer in the bedroom, holiday abroad..)for it.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Kerry, so no change then. It's still the men who are in the wrong because of one disreputeble e-mail from one person.

My name is on my Son's birth certificate but I still have no rights whatsoever by law. Fortunately, she allows me contact/residence rights (I'll use your new terms) seeing as I pay her a huge sum every month. She has still renamed him at school though (the school teachers know his legal name and yet have gone along with it) and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. She hasn't officially changed his name yet but without a Parental Responsibility Agreement, which she refuses to sign, there is nothing I can do to stop it, even with a millionaire solicitor on board.

She was the abusive partner in our relationship and I'm well out of it, but I'm the one who teaches him to read while she is getting plastered in the pub, and I'm the one who teaches him manners while she just sticks him in front of a bootleg DVD. I control his eczema as his Mum can't be bothered, and I even clean his finger nails when he is with me as she's too busy on the Wii that my money bought her.

I have a fragile working agreement to see my son (he's 7 and I see him when she is working her 2 days a week) but I can't make any comment when he is being farmed out to a variety of places at other times, that I think are terribly wrong for him, while she goes out and has fun, because the moment I do, she can pull the plug on my seeing him entirely.

Your idea of names on the certificate will NOT work without giving the Father who is named the rights to go with it. An answer would be that the Mum has to agree to a PRO when registering the child, and accepting that named Fathers previous to that are automatically allowed the same provision without having to ask permission from the Mum (sorry, but despite your one-sided view, Mums can be equally damaging as Dads).