Bad Fathers’ Day

Oh, Tory hypocrisy.  You have to laugh don’t you.  Actually you don’t have to laugh but I find laughing a better way of dealing with the visceral feelings it stirs up than the alternative which is beating my head against a wall until I lose consciousness.

We’re back to single parents again.  Tories love ‘em because it gives them something to rail against that rallies the faithful; the dribbling, frothing hordes that litter the discussion boards of the Telegraph and Mail with dismal grammar and poorly spelled outpourings of hate.

But before Mr Cameron is metaphorically disemboweled let us celebrate just how far the Tories have come in the twenty-five-odd years since Dave successfully navigated puberty and talked to a girl for the first time.  The debate about single parents has moved on.  Seriously!

Twenty five years ago it was all about single mothers.  There was no limit to Tory misogyny back in the 80s.

That was the era when unmarried women who got pregnant were demonised as the spawn of Satan; a legion of trollops who couldn’t keep their legs closed.  Never mind the legion of Tory men desperately trying to prize their legs apart for their own gratification (I wonder if Pfizer had thought about signing up Cecil Parkinson, Bob Dole style, to front their Viagra campaign?).  It was the same story of woman as temptress that’s been spun since Eden.

So, hey, let’s celebrate the fact that Dave has decided to take on men for a change – those errant dads who bugger off and leave their families in the lurch.  Let’s also celebrate the fact that Dave didn’t single out black men.  I don’t know if he was tempted or not, but back in the 80s there were plenty of Tories who did.

Nope – Dave has used Fathers’ Day (that ancient celebration devised by the greetings card industry) to lionise single mothers while giving errant dads a kicking.

To quote from the Telegraph: “They should be looked at like drink drivers, people who are beyond the pale.

“They need the message rammed home to them, from every part of our culture, that what they’re doing is wrong – that leaving single mothers, who do a heroic job against all odds, to fend for themselves simply isn’t acceptable.”

Yowser!  Did you see how he did that?  What a blinder.  Single mothers are now heroic.  It’s like Steve Davis curling the cue ball neatly around the black to sink a red, in a manner of speaking.

If that remark could be taken purely at face value one could almost sympathise.  After all most of us relate to the struggle of single parents who do their best under difficult circumstances.

The trouble with Dave is that there’s always a subtext.  The first part of the subtext is the standard Tory bollocks: “I want us to recognise marriage in the tax system so as a country we show we value commitment.”

Yadda, yadda, yadda.  Dave likes nuclear families.  Dave doesn’t recognise the importance of extended families.  If he did he’d address the fact that while foster families are paid to look after children whose nuclear family has gone into melt-down (to the tune of about £150 a week) if those children go to live with grandparents there’s no financial support – a real problem for those who have retired.

Nor is there any recognition of the role played by the community.  During the 12 years I lived on the canal in Oxford I saw the effect of a tight-knit community at work and it was amazing.  Other boaters’ children would run in and out of my and my neighbours homes and interact with us as autonomous small individuals.  Functioning communities help turn out stupendously confident and well adjusted kids.

There’s not even any recognition of the wider factors that lead to family break up – and prominent amongst those is money.  While Dave (I married into the Astor family), and George (I have a £3 million trust fund) may not worry so very much about money, the little people they avoid socially do.  It’s a major strain.  This government’s policies are doing absolutely nothing to tackle that.  The numbers out of work are rising, salaries are plummeting in real terms and social services are being cut.

But let’s leave all that aside and deal with the really major instance of hypocrisy – one that Dave spelled out in black and white for us all.

“From my father, I learned about responsibility. Seeing him get up before the crack of dawn to go and do a hard day’s work and not come back until late at night had a profound impact on me.”

There you go.  Dave’s dad was an absent father.  He was at work from before Dave woke up until after he went to bed.  And when Dave was old enough to stay up late so he could see his dad in the evening Dave wasn’t there – he’d been sent off to board at Eton.

This goes to the heart of all the Tory bollocks about work.  They’re utterly failing to address a major issue that’s really damaging the development of our children; the macho work culture that now has thousands of men and women working 50 hour weeks.  Once you add on the time spent commuting many parents, per force, are out of the house 12 hours a day during the week.

I call a company director who leaves for the office at six thirty and gets back at ten at night, and who plays golf with his business buddies weekends, an absent father.  The fact that he pays the bills for his children doesn’t change that one iota.

Dave can talk all he likes about parents giving emotional support to their children, but unless he wakes up to the fact that an absent parent can’t do emotional support as well as one who is actually there, whether they’re absent through fecklessness or absent because they have to work, no one ought to take the man very seriously.

He’s given himself away.  It’s just about money.  It’s OK to be absent so long as the state doesn’t have to pick up the tab.

And if all that didn’t stick in one’s craw enough Cameron, as Prime Minister, works ridiculous hours and surely can’t spare his young family enough time during the week.

Now I am not going to suggest that he doesn’t love his children.  Not only would that be no more than crass superficial politicking but it would also be unfair.  He clearly does, as much as anyone.  Indeed when his son Ivan died I really felt for the guy.  Part of his heart is doubtless is in the right place.

The trouble is that part of his brain, the ideological cosseted-by-privilege part, isn’t.

Children need time.  They need love.  They need not so much just two parents (though two parents working in concert are a major plus) as a whole adult support network so they have many, many role models and not just mummy and daddy.

It’s just a shame that the Tories are oblivious to the fact that it’s time as well as money that makes that possible.


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