Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday, 4 January 2010

Cameron is going to have to raise his game

I expect there will be a few furrowed brows in CCHQ tonight regarding what David Cameron said earlier today and then later had to clarify.

Regarding recognising marriage in the tax system he first said:

It’s something within a parliament I would definitely hope to do... We’re not able to give people absolute certainty on everything.

So in other words an aspiration that could not be guaranteed.

But by later this afternoon, lo and behold it was described as something he felt very strongly about and:

It’s something we will definitely do in the next parliament.

So he went from "not able to give people certainty" to it being something they will "definitely do" in the space of a few hours.

The run up to the election is when people really start focusing on what the party leaders are saying. Cameron cannot afford too many more moments like this. Before he knows it the "dithering" line he has used against Gordon Brown will be coming right back at him.

I noted in a piece I did for Lib Dem Voice recently that none of the 3 main party leaders have yet been tested in the fire of a general election campaign. To be honest though I was not expecting Cameron to be found wanting so early in the opening salvos.

He will need to raise his game and quickly.


Alex said...

For me, this policy on marriage is a really bad one:

1. I don't know if you know this but their proposal is actually based on research. The research (according to them) supposedly shows that children who's parents stay married are more likely to become good people (I forget the exact term, but you know what I mean). Unfortunately, the Conservatives have the causality backwards. What the research showed, is that people who get and stay married have a more stable relationship than those who don't, and thus they are more likely to bring up children better. Basically, that your parents are married is irrelevant. It's whether or not they're in a good, stable relationship that matters for the welfare of the child. So that's Bad Science.

2. From 1, we can then get unintended consequences. Give people a financial incentive (though see 3) to stay married, and maybe couples who shouldn't stay together do so, which wouldn't be good for the child. Sometimes divorce is actually in the child's best interests.

3. Of course, will this actually have any effect at all? I'm skeptical that there many people who respond to financial incentives in relationships this way. (Though I'm fairly sure I know why Cameron thinks it'll work: I believe Nudge by Richard Thaler was on the Conservative summer reading list a year or two ago. But behavioural economics is still in its infancy, and it's even sillier to try to apply it to a situation, without research, that it's probably not been used before - marriage) And I'm also skeptical that it's money that is the main cause of divorce.

4. The policy is unfair. What about all those people (Conflict of interest: I am one of them) that are either single or marriage isn't for them (yet or ever)? Not only do single people not find love, but they also pay more taxes! And will it apply to civil partnerships (since gay people aren't allowed legally to get married)?

5. It's utterly fake. The Conservatives are worried about the rate of divorce in this country, and I can understand that. But this proposal is meant to keep people married by giving them a financial incentive. How is exactly is that conducive to a good relationship? How exactly does that honour the institution of marriage? Where is the dignity in marriage after this proposal is implemented? What this proposal tells me is that all that matters is pretenses. The pretense in public that people are in a good relationship, so that what people really think and feel about each other doesn't matter in the slightest to the Conservatives. It is the kind of fakery that allows men to beat their wives behind closed doors, homosexuals to stay in the closet, and married conservatives who preach "Family Values" to be banging the secretary or the maid. Now maybe it would be unfair to say that the Conservative party hasn't changed much from it's Major days, but this proposal is just what the term "sham marriage" is for.

Alex said...

I should just clarify my first point because it seems badly phrased. The research showed that people decide to get married do so because they are in a stable relationship. It's not that there's anything stable about marriage, only that people who do get married are already in stable relationships.

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

My suspicion is that Cameron will get over this - just as Clegg will get over this morning's radio performance harped on about by your fellow bloggist Dale - "When 'Won't' Doesn't Work" @

Are the public not a bit more wise than once they were to promises about what will be done, without fail, honest, no doubt about it? Since Blair made the distinction between a promise and a fanciful aspiration some years ago, they ought to be, one hopes.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of John Kerry's famous "You bet we might have" statement on the Iraq War.

The difference is he was up against a much more formidable political operator - improbable though that may seem!