For some time now it has become apparent that more people are shunning marriage in favour of (to use the vernacular) 'living over the brush'. This is something we have all known. There are various reasons so one would expect them to be explored in today's Mail article. Well, of course, nobody expects. You just imply that it is the fault of the Labour Government. Hence the headline:
The article merely quotes a lengthy series of stats to add weight (padding) to the story. It is hard to know what is actually being said.
- Between 1996 and 2006 cohabitation soared by 65 per cent to 2.3 million couples while the number of married couples fell 4 per cent to 12.1 million.
Obviously the Mail has had to rely upon figures for the decade commencing 2006 as they will probably be the ones available. This does lead one to suspect that the trend had already started as John Major's Boycottesque innings was coming to a close. Still, we get the general gist - everything that is bad only happens when the Commies are in power.
Leaving aside the notion as to whether being married actually makes one a better person, or the relationship more valid, the Mail then turns on one of its favourites:
- Lone parent families, including those with non-dependent children, increased eight per cent to 2.6 million over the same period, according to the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) Focus on Families report.
Of course lone parents include those who have divorced, separated or widowed. The trick is to lump them all together (in itself quite correct) and let the minds of the DM crowd translate into depictions of single mothers on benefit. Ordinarily, that would seem to be stretching it and I could be criticised for over egging the tiramisu. In the context of Planet Mail, however, it is one small step for Mailkind; one giant leap for imagination.
Then we have the startling revelation that actually:
- Lone parent families, the majority of them single mothers, account for 24 per cent of households with dependent children. This figure has risen only slightly from 1996 when it was 21 per cent, the ONS said.
Furthermore, the DM, to be fair, tells us more of the report's contents:
- "The fact that cohabitation is more prevalent at younger ages reflects both the fact that cohabitation is often a precursor to marriage and a greater acceptance of cohabitation among younger generations," the report says.
This is as I expected. What I would have liked was an analysis of the reasons for the change. The above point is obviously a major one as a lot of us will have grandparents ho could tell of the stigma of being born out of wedlock or pre-marital sex (I always thought that was a quick one with the chief bridesmaid before the ceremony but that's just my filthy mind!). Indeed, anyone that watched the BBC's excellent Who Do You Think You Are? where celebrities trace their ancestry, will have noticed the 'skeletons in the cupboard' and in some cases, illegitimate children and mothers were banished. (see also Angela's Ashes set in Limerick, Ireland).
Is the Mail suggesting we should return to this situation? It constantly bemoans the fact that young girls get pregnant to get benefits and council housing, claims which are way off the mark.
I was surprised that no mention was made of the tax implications of being married as opposed to cohabiting. I'm no accountant (I wanted to be a lion tamer but graduated to the legal profession by way of a Pythonesque step) so over to BBC contributor Chas Roy-Chowdhury Head of Taxation, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants:
- If you are thinking of getting married do it for love, not for any tax benefit - you would have to really scratch your head to try and find any big tax advantages to being married.
The problem is that governments, of whichever party, decided many years ago that we should have all taxpayers treated separately for tax purposes.
Hence the principle which existed in the past, that the husband and wife were a single taxable entity, has been systematically dismantled.
The Tories ("Party of the Family" Registered TM) have recently looked at a vote winning package of tax concessions for those willing to say, "I do vote Conservative". Here's Dave Boy Cameron in July this year,
- "If we get the family right, we can fix our broken society.
Britain is almost the only country in Europe that doesn't recognise marriage in the tax system and the benefits system actively discourages parents from living together.
We have the highest rate of family breakdown in Europe and we have the worst social problems in Europe. Don't tell me these things aren't connected."
And at the Party Conference, the Quiet Man himself, called for tax breaks for married couples. His speech (together with IDS's customary frog in the throat can be seen here.
There is an argument for a return of some form of allowance for partners in the tax system; most financial responsibilities are joint, for example, mortgages. However, the Mail passes up the opportunity. The article,I think, is very poor. It merely prints a few figures in a cut-and-paste job (as I do ahem! but I don't get paid for it because I am arguing in my spare time!)
The article ends with the alarming claim that,
- Between 1976 and 2004 the proportion of women aged 18 to 49 who were not married and were cohabiting trebled from nine per cent to 23 per cent, the report says.
Ah, 1976. That'll be Jim Callaghan's fault then.
- Like everything else with this Government.- Jacqui Weems, Southampton
Jacqui, you really are a whining old moron. Your one-liners are on a par with Syd Little. Read the sodding article before showng your ignorance.