Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The State Is Mother, The State Is Father...

Ben Rogers, Demos think-tank member, ponders the tricky business of marriage and the need for politicians to reference it in election campaigns. He isn't keen on either the Tory Party 'We will promote marriage!' or the Labour Party 'We couldn't care less!' approach.

So, as he's paid to think (!), he's come up with a compromise:
But there is a far better option staring the parties in the face. The obvious answer is to invest money in a different sort of public promisebirth or "baby-naming" ceremonies. A policy that promoted these would incorporate the Conservative insight that public promises do make a difference, with the Labour one that many children will continue to be born out of marriage and that many marriages fail. Parents who would never consider marriage might be willing to participate in a ceremony committing them and their friends to do their best by their newborn child.

Can anyone imagine what these sort of ceremonies would be like? And where they'd be held?
And promoting a new universal promissory ceremony of this kind would be surprisingly easy. Parents already have to register a newborn baby at a registry office. It is simply a question, as I have argued elsewhere, of building on this, and turning what is currently a banal bureaucratic exchange into a public commitment.
No, you're simply making it a bigger, more pointless bureaucratic exchange. Those keen on a promissory ceremony can already have a christening, should they be religious, or have a baby-naming party with their friends if not.

Why, oh why, would the state need to get involved in this?
Labour should recognise that promises do make a difference. It should also remember that citizenship ceremonies and civil unions have been some of the very best and most popular policy reforms of the last 10 years. Committing the party to promoting baby-naming ceremonies could draw in the goodwill that these ceremonies have created and show that Labour understands the importance of vows publicly made. The Conservatives, meanwhile, need to temper their enthusiasm for the rite of marriage with a more up-to-date support for rites of birth.
Which rather ignores the point that both citizenship ceremonies and civil unions have been 'popular' not because they were new and exciting, but because there was no other alternative until they came along.

It seems you don't need to do an awful lot of thinking to be a member of a think tank, doesn't it?


Anonymous said...

I hereby promise to teach my children that, without explicit proof backed by empirical evidence, the teacher is always wrong, the policeman is always wrong, the politician is always wrong, THE STATE IS ALWAYS WRONG AND MUST BE QUESTIONED AND RESISTED AT ALL COSTS.

Quiet_Man said...

Sometimes I think people ought to qualify for some sort of license before they are allowed to think for governments.

Kevin B said...

Perhaps we should get the registrar in at the conception phase.

The participants could promise that if she got pregnant he wouldn't do a runner. After all, promises mean a lot.

Dr Evil said...

So that would be a bastard naming ceremony in the main then?

JuliaM said...

"After all, promises mean a lot."

Heh! Now's not the time to start thinking that. ;)

"So that would be a bastard naming ceremony in the main then?"