Angela Tilby: All the parties have ditched family values 

29 November 2019


Boris Johnson (left) and Jeremy Corbyn shake hands during their TV debate earlier this month

Boris Johnson (left) and Jeremy Corbyn shake hands during their TV debate earlier this month

THE Labour Party is committed in its election manifesto to decriminalising abortion. It also intends to abolish the married person’s tax allowance. The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, have just deselected a Roman Catholic candidate, Robert Flello, because “his values diverge from ours.” The “values” here are those, supposedly, of individual freedom of choice.

This is, perhaps, understandable for the Lib Dems, who are, at heart, “liberals”, after all, cherishing individual freedom. But Labour is the party of community: “For the many, not the few.” Although the heart of Labour’s manifesto is a reassertion of the public over the private, on personal morality that is all reversed. The importance of social bonds ends when it comes to family life.

Abortion on demand completes a woman’s right to choose. The abolition of the tax allowance is presented as justice for unmarried couples. Abortion is a sensitive subject, especially among Catholics. But Labour appears to have lost interest in the Catholic vote, or, at least, to have calculated that most Catholics no longer care enough about abortion for it to be an issue when it comes to the ballot box.

There is a logic here, but it is, to me at least, a somewhat twisted logic. Labour’s political power is enhanced when large groups of people are dependent on the State for jobs and welfare. Beliefs and institutions that offer solidarity on a smaller scale can threaten that aim. This is one reason why we hear so little from the Left these days about the importance of family life, in spite of the fact that research shows how children’s life-chances are worsened when stability is absent.

It leads one to suspect that a Labour government would rather pay for the consequences of family breakdown than attempt to strengthen marriage and even stable partnerships. The Conservatives, for their part, have pushed a liberalising agenda supporting gay marriage, new relationship education in schools, and civil partnerships for all.

There is now no party willing to advocate “traditional” personal morality. This means that conservative-minded Christians, Jews, and Muslims have been effectively disenfranchised by politicians who have calculated that their views are now beyond the range of what governments should defend and promote.

Totalitarianism has many faces. Perhaps the most sinister is that of an apparently benign state subtly undermining the moral values that sustain some of its significant communities. I would personally take a liberal attitude on some of the difficult issues of personal morality, but I do not think that we should do politics as though the argument is over. Resentment burns as a slow fuse, and, if our current political leaders prove tone-deaf, others might be listening whose agendas are truly damaging and divisive.

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