Sunday, December 10, 2006

Have I Been Unfair to Iain Duncan Smith?

Tim Montgomerie is disappointed that I 'rushed to judgement' about IDS's remarks in the Sunday Telegraph HERE. Several people in the comments section of my original POST have also taken me to task.

Tim thinks that Melissa Kite twisted IDS's remarks chasing a headline. Admittedly this wouldn't be the first time that has happened, and it is certainly true that this story has distracted from the main issue, which is that kids who are brought up by two parents in a stable family environment tend to do better than those that are not. But as several people have commented here and on ConservativeHome, IDS should have seen this issue coming and prepared himself accordingly. Because he didn't, the story is not what it should have been. Having re-read his remarks I don't believe I rushed to judgement at all. I called it as I saw it - an unwise and ill-judged remark.

However, moving on, I think IDS's report in general is terrific and says some things that need to be said. His article in today's Sunday Times. The key issues he highlights are these:

Children who have suffered family breakdown are 75% more likely
to fail in education and are far more vulnerable to poor mental health and
addictions. People with a history of drug or alcohol addiction are more than
twice as likely to have experienced personal debt as the general population.

The report, Breakdown Britain, demonstrates, according to the Sunday Telegraph..

Seventy per cent of young offenders come from lone-parent
families. The cost of family breakdown is £20 billion a year. Children from a
broken home are twice as likely to have behavioural problems, 70 per cent more
likely to be a drug addict.

The key passage from Melissa kite's interview with IDS is this one...

"The facts show that there is a difference between a cohabiting couple with children and a married couple with children. The reality is the children themselves do suffer enormously. The life chances of those children degrade immediately on the breakdown. Also the quality of life for the single mother degrades. She will be 20 per cent worse off the moment the man
walks out the door. So who's going to pick up the cost? Twenty per cent loss
means you are going to cascade into support from the state." He adds: "There are
great single mothers out there and there are also good cohabiting parents who
will succeed against the odds, but it will be against the odds because the
majority will suffer these other problems."

In a striking analysis, he believes that gangs are on the
rise because they have become substitute families. Kids of 13, 14, 15 running
pretty near wild on the streets… we need to understand why these kids are in
this violent criminal behaviour much more than 20 years ago, and most of it
comes down to a real problem where the breakdown and absence of structure and
family mean that those kids are seeking structure and family elsewhere." The
unstable family is also fuelling abuse of women, he believes. "There's a big
problem about what I call the stepfathering syndrome, these guesting fathers,
the boyfriends that come in. This non-biological parent arriving, who's there
for a period of time, may father another child, may move on, but in that process
a significant proportion… breeds violence." He concludes by reiterating: "Two
parents looking after a child has got to be what you want."

I don't disagree with a word of that. It is not stigmatising lone parenthood to discuss well researched facts. Lone parents often do a tremendous job but it is simply a fact that a child has a better chance in life if it comes from a stable, two parent background. No one thinks that this is possible for every child, but IDS is right to say that our welfare and tax system needs to promote what is right for children.

I look forward to seeing what measures he proposes to help address these issues when his report is published tomorrow.

UPDATE: On the Politics Show, IDS clarified his remarks on gay parenting. He said: "In terms of what effect they have on child rearing and therefore how they would change or displace our figures, then there are so few bringing up children that either way it's not going to make any change. It was in no way a judgment about gay couples bringing up children, if they are bringing them up well then well done, good luck to them, that's exactly what we believe in - structure and stability are important."


Anonymous said...

Yes. I think this whole Melissa Kite red herring has usefully distracted from the issues.......just a pity the subjects of this report are not members of the stroppy middle-class salariat living in the virtual reality world of metropolitan affluence..................these are in many cases the people the Notting Hill smart-alecs order their coke and heroin from or open their Chelsea doors to have a knife delivered in the stomach.

Maybe some of these precious types should move to Peckham or Tottenham and discuss the finer nuances of matters with the voters down there who probably need a good Melissa Kite pep talk

Too much of this kind of comment Iain is rather like the old 1962 Private Eye record.......... tHe City of New York was today destroyed in a series of nuclear explosions. No Britons are reported amongst those killed

Something about wood and trees

Anonymous said...

Probably only a doctrinaire statist wouldn't agree with his general conclusions.

As for your reaction in a previous post -yes, the headlines were more than a little misleading when compared to the intention of the piece. Provocatively so, IMO. And probably deliberate. Almost as if somebody out there doesn't like what he had to say or doesn't like him personally and tried to turn the author into the subject matter - a standard method for dismissing an unwelcome message.

But linking this story to another in today's MSM, I've a question which you or others who visit the site may be able to answer - do the CSA chase up adoptive parents (gay or not) if the relationship splits up? Or is it only biological parents that get billed?

Anonymous said...

I think you have missed an important point. Tim Montgomerie is no doubt on the side of that BA debate which says that woman should be allowed to wear that cross in a 'Christian' country.

Boris Johnson appears to want this to be a more 'Christian' country, but more as a 'fashion statement' than anything else, as he doesn't go to church all that frequently himself.

But both these viewpoints seem to line up with the Church of England which is opposed to homosexuality on the basis that it is sinful. You cannot have your cake and eat it on this one. Either you sign up to that view, or the alternative 'let it all hang out' view of Christianity.

If you choose the former, there is little point complaining about the Islamic approach to human rights and them wanting to proselytise in this country, & make it an Islamic state.

And if you choose the latter [which I suspect would be Bozza's approach] you can't then really complain about people not putting 'Merry Christmas' on their cards, or that employers will not fund Christmas decorations, because you have elected to move to a more secular, PC, society.

Try squaring the circle, and you will find that you can't. I am astonished that you are complaining like Jeff Randall about not having 'Christian' greetings cards, and then you will complain that rather inconveniently tells you 'a man shall not lie with another man'.

Anonymous said...

His whole approach is offensive rubbish. My kids are brought up by parents who are unmarried and are doing just fine. IDS's bigotry - his assertion above that all kids to unmarried parents suffer - shows why he was a joke. I just wish he'd led the Tories in 2005 - Labour would probably have increased its majority.

Chris Palmer said...

Iain, I think it is fair to say that sometimes your disposition and feelings on this issue make you jump to conclusions.

Perhaps taking a step back for a moment in the future in these circumstances would allow for a better evaluation.

neil craig said...

Not only do lone parents produce children with problems but perhaps counterintuitively lone mothers alone seem to bring up male children who end up in prison. Boys with fathers alone seem to do ok. By comparison daughters are less likely to have early pregnancies if brought up with mother than father.

Divorce custody law should be revised in this direction.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ was born in a stable environment...

Anonymous said...

"His whole approach is offensive rubbish. My kids are brought up by parents who are unmarried and are doing just fine. IDS's bigotry - his assertion above that all kids to unmarried parents suffer - shows why he was a joke."

HAHAHAHAHA. Surely this is satire?

Anonymous said...

Just watched IDS on the politics show. Can't say I disagreed with a word he said.

However I think he should have been more careful in his comments to the Telegraph. Someone of his experience should have realised that others would only too quickly choose to misrepresent his comments.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I saw this reported on the BBC News web site yesterday - the usual "my comments was distorted" story - and jumped to the conclusion that it was yet another case of somebody slipping up in an interview and then trying to weasel their way out of it.

Not so. Having read what the Sunday Telegraph said (and, I might add, what the BBC use to kick off the story as an opening paragraph) versus what he actually said in the interview, it's a pretty damning indictment on journalistic standards.

IDS was an ineffective leader, but he doesn't have a homophobic bone in his body, and is probably one of the most compassionate influences on the party for the last twenty years or so. I have no idea why the media keeps laying into him like this, even in his new role.

And if I were IDS, I'd be picking up the phone to my lawyer.

Anonymous said...


IDS was not prepared for the question.
Where was the PR planning?

Did IDS have any help?

Those are the questions that you should pursue off line.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I think your solution is to have him back at 18DS asap.

Anonymous said...

"IDS was an ineffective leader ..."

Ditto Hague, Howard and Cameron.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the weasel. Get IDS on 18DS to answer for himself and get the misrepresentation / headline grabbing mainstream media out of the picture.

I can't remember whether it was a comment on Broadcasting House (R4) or Whorricker (R5) this morning (I gave up soing Sunday mornings years ago) which suggested he had been hit my the need for a good headline.

Get him on the programme next week.

Anonymous said...

The educational disparity between children from single parent families, which leaves boys at a disadvantage due to the absence of a guiding male parent in 9 cases out of ten, follows right the way through to the male/female split at university. I recently carried out an extensive analysis of this subject which is available to read at Cobbett Rides Again!

Philipa said...

Of course it stigmatises lone parents, just read the comments here.

Anonymous said...

How can you be unfair to IDS?

From that photo, he cannt even poke himself in the eye properly!

Anonymous said...

IDS has made some crucial points which are getting lost in this whole debate:

i) Statistics show us that, ON AVERAGE, children brought up in one-parent families tend to do worse then children brought up by two parents. Other research also shows that, ON AVERAGE, children brought up by married couples tend to do better then children brought up by unmarried couples. The obvious conclusion is that government policy should be geared towards promoting healthy marriages as a benefit to the children brought up within them.
ii) There are too few same-sex parent families for us to make a valid assessment as to whether, ON AVERAGE, the performance of children brought up within them is different to that of other family arrangements.

That's it. Let's start talking about the facts on the ground, proved by research not just anecdote, and what we can learn from them in creating public policy that will benefit the most neglected in our society.

Anonymous said...

The wrinkled weasel (any relation to Deep Stoat?) is indeed on the money here. Sounds like the perfect followup to have him on 18DS.

Taken in the full context, surely the remarks are actually if anything an argument to allow gay couples to marry and form stable relationships. A Canadian study of a couple of years ago (sorry, can't find the link but it was in the national press) found that for couple longevity, lesbians had the advantage; they tend to stay together longer than straight couples. Male homosexual couples cohabiting had the shortest lifespan in terms of stable domestic arrangements. Naturally the new marriage equality changes will have their effect on this in the fullness of time; just imagine what heterosexual couples would be like if marriage for them were illegal!

And please do not assume that all Anglicans are against gay marriage; my own diocese is leading a radical movement towards acknowledging and performing gay weddings. Indeed, at the last wedding I attended the priest brought his husband, who also participated in the ceremony (they are both Anglican priests). The Church of England is naturally its own unit, but it is a unit and root of Anglicanism, and a change like this reverberates everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I notice that Peter Ould is calling for more research. The data is widely available on the ONS and DfES websites. The government has initiated much further research - in my experience of very poor quality and very great cost. What is needed is not more research but a willingness to act on known facts in order to change the situation.
Other comments are debating the intrinsic value of heterosexual as opposed to homosexual relationships. The answer surely is that in itself any relationship which is stable and happy for the people concerned should be valued equally. It is an illogical leap, however, to state that any relationship, even if right for the two individuals, is an ideal one in which to successfully rear children.

Anonymous said...

Peter O isn't calling for more research, he's simply saying that the research isn't yet available. He's also concerned that when we do the research we approach the results with an open mind about what it actually tell us, not rejecting it simply because it doesn't fit our own personal social prejudices. For example, I am theologically opposed to same-sex unions, but if research showed that they provided the same sort of developmental outcome for children as marriages then I would support government policy that encouraged them for same-sex self-identified parents.

Anonymous said...

HF said...


IDS was not prepared for the question.
Where was the PR planning?

Super !!! No PR Planning .........just a genuine human being saying what he thinks !

GREAT ! This is so much better than PR clones

Anonymous said...

And please do not assume that all Anglicans are against gay marriage; my own diocese is leading a radical movement towards acknowledging and performing gay weddings

Please tell us which one so we can avoid it as it floats off to ECUSA

Anonymous said...

I used to read a lot of counselling and psychotherapy books when I was younger and I have been absolutely convinced for years that anti-social behaviour, binge drinking, stress, depression and excessive debt is linked to lack of community, lack of religious belief and family break up. In a nutshell - when life gets hard you need somebody to turn to and if there's nobody there (which is increasingly the case) you turn to the state. The state increasingly carries the burden of people's lack of an informal support network.

And, yes, I am talking from personal experience here.

Strong relationships are a part of a strong civic society, and I always understood that a strong civic society, not controlled or dictated by the state, was part of the New Right philosophy.

Plus people living on their own use more raw resources, are more likely to get depressed and their housing demands help to inflate house prices which cause more people to be excluded from owning their own homes.

So, after all that, does it really matter if they are gay or not. Maybe it is not the role of the state to try to control an individual's private sexuality.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone point to any human culture, at any place and time, which has successfully utilised any strategy other than stable heterosexual parents as the best way of introducing children into an independent adulthood?

To Peter Ould, surely saying the research isn't available implies that it is required. In any case it is available, you just need to go and look for it.

Anonymous said...

CRO, we probably agree on this subject anyway, but I'm not aware of any substantive research in this country on the long-term effect of gay parenting - let me have some URLs if you know them. Also, Civil Partnerships have only been in place for a year so the necessary cohort studies on different family environments would really need a few more years to run even if they started at the beginning of this year.

niconoclast said...

Is there not a strong correlation between the rise of single parent families (which are invariably female run) and the rise of homosexuality?

Lack of male role models leads to a sexual identity crisis in young boys. Most homosexuals tend to be overly and unhealthily influenced by their mothers....

Anonymous said...

Yes Niconoclast, there is a clear correlation between the two. However, as any statistician will tell you, correlation does not in any sense imply causation.

Anonymous said...

FYI to the nony who wanted the info (and apparently can't get Google where he lives) the diocese to which I refer is the diocese of New Westminster.

Anonymous said...

Lack of male role models leads to a sexual identity crisis in young boys. Most homosexuals tend to be overly and unhealthily influenced by their mothers....

Nice try but some might be turned off by fathers who are present but distant.

If the answer were that simple life would be easy because women would be the cause of lesbianism, transsecualism and gay acting it would mean single parent households headed by men would not be gay.

Logic flaw somewhere