Some words from Sir Kier Starmer’s speech to the Labour Party earlier this month caught my attention.
Family values mean the world to me. I was lucky enough to grow up in a loving family and I have the great joy now of a family of my own.
The mission of the Labour Party I lead is to extend that same opportunity to everyone.
And my vision for Britain is simple: I want this to be the best country to grow up in and the best country to grow old in.
A country in which we put family first. A country that embodies the values I hold dear. Decency, fairness, opportunity, compassion and security. Security for our nation, our families and for all of our communities.
A family is more than simple an accident of biology, especially now that human reproduction is so easily controlled. Pregnancies follow human choice, choices for which the adults concerned have to take responsibility. The creation of a child may not have been their intention but in most cases the adults involved have chosen sexual intercourse. The resultant children have no choice in this matter and are brought into the world as vulnerable and dependent. No one, other than a parent can be obliged to take responsibility for them.
The family has been a means of putting first the interests of children and providing a caring, stable environment in which they can be brought up. Until recent times the expectations made of men, to earn money, and of women to remain dependent on the father of her children and run the home have been met by the family structure.
Cohabitation once resulted, almost inevitably, in the arrival of children. This is no longer the case and so parenthood is no longer the tie it once was between a man and a woman. In recent decades changes to the law on divorce have made it easier for the adult partners to a marriage to part company, but not easier for the junior or third parties to that marriage contract.
When a marriage is dissolved arrangements are usually made for the custody, supervision and expense of children remaining with a lone parent and for access for the absentee parent.
What are not imposed are arrangements whereby the children may see the absent parent when they wish to or arrangements whereby the absent parent will support the resident parent with the practical responsibilities of parenthood. Neither are there restrictions on a lone parent admitting to their children’s home another adult, a stranger to them perhaps.
Perhaps we should extend a parent’s duty of care for children to a duty of care to the other parent, to support the other parent with the responsibilities of parenthood.
What more would a Labour government do to encourage and expect parents to prepare their children for school and life in a wider community, to teach them to consider and respect others and the community, to teach them to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions and teach them to be useful, law abiding citizens?
If as Sir Kier rightly wishes, we put family first in the hope that every child will grow up in a loving family which will achieve these things we must ask then what a Labour government might do to bring this about.
Might a Labour Government support parents by doing more to control advertising and social media that target young people?
Might a Labour Government help parents by doing more to encourage support groups for parents?
Might a Labour government expect the parents of children to protect them from the attention and influence of criminals?
Might a Labour government expect parents to make restitution for damage or harm caused by their children?
Might a Labour government expect parents to be held to account should their children commit serious criminal offences?
Might a Labour government expect absentee parents to live within walking distance of their children?
If marriage is a means of supporting families where there are children, should the state act on behalf of children to impose, if necessary, a marriage contract between couples who bring children into the world?