A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tax shouldn't be anything to do with relationships

To say I am wound up by Andy Burnham's suggestion that "the tax system should recognise commitment and marriage" is an understatement.

As someone who isn't married, but is in a stable relationship that has lasted considerably longer than some of my friends' marriages, I wish politicians of all parties would butt out of trying to tell people what model of family or relationship is best for them and particularly of trying to social engineer people into marriage through tax bribes. What is it supposed to mean? That married people are "better" or "more worthy" and must therefore be rewarded?

A few bugbears:

a) the rate of divorce in this country suggests too many people marry in haste. If we encourage more marriages without creating support and advice for couples and getting them to stop and think about whether they are doing the right thing, we'll just get more divorces.

b) how dare any politician tell any of us what sort of relationship would be best for us? How are they supposed to know?

c) surely some tawdry tax break devalues the whole institution and makes it look like a financial deal not a declaration of love?

d) do we really want to make people less well off because they get divorced? Won't they have enough problems to deal with anyway?

My partner says she would seriously consider whether she would stay in the Labour Party if it goes down this path.

Maybe one day we might get married. If we do though it won't be because the Treasury tries to bribe us to do it.

While we're on the subject, when are we going to follow our fantastic, progressive step in creating Civil Partnerships for gay and lesbian couples with a similar civil partnership institution that mixed-gender couples can sign up to if they want legal recognition as a couple but don't want the cultural/historical/social trappings of getting married?

P.S. before anyone starts having a go, I think marriage is a great institution, I respect people who want to get married, I enjoy weddings immensely - I just want other people and the state to recognise that one size doesn't fit all and you don't have to be married to have a happy family life.

The state - and politicians - should stay well away from telling people how to conduct their personal lives.


Anonymous observer's friend said...

Ouch! I agree with every bloody word you've written. Now that's a first!

3:53 am, October 14, 2007

Blogger Benjamin said...

Totally agree with you, Luke - a rare event.

9:00 am, October 14, 2007

Anonymous bringbackblair said...


I would normally accuse you of being off-message here, but since Brown became PM I'm not sure what on-message is anymore.


Bitter Blairite

10:21 am, October 14, 2007

Anonymous parburypolitica said...

Cracking post Luke.

10:55 am, October 14, 2007

Anonymous lord london fields lido said...

Yep, I've also just put a red ring around the day - just agreed with Luke Akehurst.

12:12 pm, October 14, 2007

Blogger Kris said...

I agree.

Further, my partner and I should not be pressured into a civil partnership.

3:04 pm, October 14, 2007

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

I completely agree with you Luke.

7:58 pm, October 14, 2007

Anonymous Linda Smith said...

Unless, of course, we can significantly reduce our tax bill under the new proposals in which case I could consider a proposal.

8:54 pm, October 14, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For once I agree with you Luke.

9:22 pm, October 14, 2007

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Luke, here I was still shaking my head at your earlier personalised hyperbole over Polly Toynbee... and then you go and do this excellent honest and sincere posting.

Earlier this year I ploughed through the IDS report for the Tories on poverty in the UK. I was beginning to get impressed with the content and style (maybe not agree with it all, but beginning to respect it).

Then it goes off-track and into the weary old prejudices about idealised 'two parents in marriage' and the cause-of-all-social-evil being single/unmarried parents.

I'm sure that Andy will learn from the reaction to his inappropropriate and baseless utterances... just as some of his fellow 'young generation' Government colleagues (hopefully) will learn from their recent 'election-now' hysteria.

9:54 pm, October 14, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How disloyal, attacking the Labour Party's (and Tories) policy on taxation. You're just as bad as that Toynbee woman.

10:19 pm, October 14, 2007

Blogger Jon Worth said...

Maybe I'm straying into dangerous ground by raising this one, but in the same interview in The Telegraph (article here), Burnham states his 'Interests' thus:

Everton FC, the Labour party and the Catholic church - "in that order"

For him how much does religious morality come into it? Do we perhaps have even more people with a strong religious belief in this cabinet than the last one?

11:19 pm, October 14, 2007

Anonymous Frieda Greebel said...

OMG, I agree with you, Luke! I think I'm going to go outside and hang myself from the nearest tree.

11:20 pm, October 14, 2007

Blogger Gordon's Gofer said...

Just for once Luke you are sopt on!

It is bollocks like this that made me join Labour if i wanted moralising politicians i would have joined the Tories.

10:21 am, October 15, 2007

Anonymous Peter Kenyon said...

Dear Luke

Back to business as usual and healthy debate and disagreement.

On the specifics of marriage and the state - I thought Harriet Harman summed it up well in her closing speech to Conference.

"Whatever it takes to support families - Labour is the party of the family and we will do it.

Families do need practical help, they don't need to be told by politicians how to lead their lives.

They don't need Tories "sending a message about marriage"....

What does that really mean?

It means saying to children whose parents have divorced or who are being brought up by a mother or a father on their own,

- It means saying to those children
- there's something wrong with your family.

And we will not stand for that.

It means saying to the gay couple or the lesbian couple who have loved each other for years - there's something wrong with your relationship.

And we will not stand for that either.

Because that Tory message about marriage is just the same old back to basics.

And the truth is that until they drop it, the Tory party is still the nasty party."

Quite where that leaves Mr Burnham, I'm not sure.

10:41 am, October 15, 2007

Anonymous David Floyd said...

Great stuff!

I suppose we should congratulate Mr Burnham on uniting the party on this one.

12:25 pm, October 15, 2007

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Burnham is just shooting his mouth off. Not Party Policy or anything like. Have gerblogged it. There are a lot of legal advantages to marriage still and not all can be replicated by side contracts.

3:30 pm, October 15, 2007

Anonymous don'tbelievethetripe said...

I agree with everything you say Luke. I was amazed to hear the news. However, before we hang Andy Burnham it is clear he was stitched up by the terrible twins on the Telegraph. They quoted him out of context and span his comments. His response after the article pointing this out was not reported anywhere, you would not be surprised to hear.

He was stupid to do the interview - they always do this to Labour politicians. Whoever advised him to do it is an idiot.

9:11 pm, October 15, 2007

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Luke, great post agree with every word of it.

8:39 am, October 16, 2007

Blogger Ewan Watt said...

Agreed. Nevertheless, the tax system still favours single couples - this is wrong.

I agree that it's not the business of the state to encourage marriage. If people get a tax break for marriage, who's to say that the divorce rate won't increase exponentially because people will be getting married out of financial convenience rather than love. This also doesn't take domestic abuse into consideration.

A rather bizarre proposal. People are staying apart because of tax incentives... so you give them a tax incentive to get married. As far as I'm aware, a tax incentive is hardly the ideal foundation stone for a healthy family. Society won't benefit from this, only divorce lawyers.

"... the rate of divorce in this country suggests too many people marry in haste. If we encourage more marriages without creating support and advice for couples and getting them to stop and think about whether they are doing the right thing, we'll just get more divorces."

This isn't a case for discouraging marriage. People get divorced for a number of reasons. It would be wrong to solely attribute rising divorce rates down to people marrying in haste.

12:29 pm, October 16, 2007

Anonymous lord london fields lido said...

Ewen, the tax system does not favour single people - it discriminates against couples rich enough for only one to have an income.

Strikes me as more progressive than penalising the unmarried.

7:33 pm, October 16, 2007

Anonymous hovedan said...

absolutely bloody correct Luke.

9:55 pm, October 16, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke you communist hero!

Crack open the [proletarian] Bolly...

9:58 pm, October 16, 2007

Blogger Merseymike said...

I think its ok to benfit commitment but that doesn't have to mean marriage.

I'm not against civil partnerships for opposite sex couples but that would have to be accompanied by marriage for gays too! Mind you, I think thats what everyone regards civil partnership as in any case. I think of myself as maried

11:16 pm, October 17, 2007

Blogger Shug Niggurath said...

The state - and politicians - should stay well away from telling people how to conduct their personal lives.

1. Cigarette ban
2. Five a day fruit n veg adverts
3. Middle England drink too much wine
4. The poor drink too much beer.

Yep, have to agree with you here.

7:19 pm, November 05, 2007


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