Contradictory Manifesto Promises: Tories and Marriage

During General Elections a lot of promises are made. In fact, politicians are forever making promises but it is now we give them a chance to bundle their best ones together for us to choose between.

Some are entirely reasonable yet produce an irrational and unjustified backlash. Others make superficial sense but are fundamentally flawed and yet do not receive the attention they need.

For example, Britain has long banned prisoners from voting and this was struck down as illegal in 2005.

The Lib Dems are committed to reviewing this policy as, you know, its illegal and Governments should really try to avoid committing crimes. A sensible policy you say, well ask Labour and they say “Do you want convicted murderers, rapists and paedophiles to be given the vote? The Lid Dems do.”

On the other hand, you have policies that to many look sensible but which fray at the edges once you take a closer look. These two policies are connected but not in the way you will first think.

  1. The Conservatives care about The Family. They care about Marriage too and that is why they want to recognise it through the tax system.
  2. The Conservatives worry about knife crime. They promise that anyone convicted of a knife crime should expect a prison sentence.

Some of you will be thinking: “Yes, of course these policies are connected. Strong families will help tackle this country’s knife crime problem.” But things rarely pan out in such a straight forward manner.

Although I am sure the Tories value marriage as an institution in itself, the other vaunted benefit of this policy is that strong families help tackle anti-social behaviour.

Unfortunately sending men to prison (and there are vastly more men in prison than women) makes the creation and maintenance of a family more difficult and could paradoxically do more to cause crime than prevent it.

A study in the USA found “that a one percentage point increase in the male incarceration rate was associated with a 2.4-point reduction in the proportion of women who ever marry.”

Translated out of statistics that means that the more people you bang up, the more people don’t marry and don’t form stable families (although a marriage is not a necessary or sufficient feature of a stable family) and are more likely to engage in crime and anti-social behaviour.

Imagine a desert island with 20 men and 20 women. Here it is easy to imagine them all forming two queues in order of attractiveness and pairing off. If you remove one man then all this changes and one woman faces a lifetime of spinsterhood.

The last woman must try harder if she is to find a man. This causes disruption because if she is successful it is only by displacing another who takes her place. Every woman has to try harder and every man can relax a little; this is not an atmosphere conducive to stable families but it is a logical conclusion to  “Prison Works”.

The Tories have offered us two policies which appear to compliment one another but in reality they aim for mutually exclusive ends.

Other posts in the Contradictory Manifesto Promises series will follow. Posts on Immigration, Parliamentary oversight, and crime statistics are imminent.