In 100 days we’ll know the make-up of the new government, assuming the Bob Ainsworth index of election prediction, a close result and that a large number of counts take place on Friday morning, the 7th May. What, though, will we be making of the campaign? What were the key issues and how was the debate conducted? Let’s have a resume of what’s been making the running so far. The recognition (or otherwise) of marriage in the tax system has been prominent alongside reducing the national deficit and the regulation of banks and bankers. There have been some skirmishes around faith schools, Sure Start and children’s tax credits. So far we’ve heard very little about Europe, the environment and defence. Their time will come.
One of the biggest difficulties with the marriage discussion is that of perceived injustice for those is different situations, some of their choosing and others not. I think, as Christians who support marriage as God’s best for couples, children and wider society, this makes us feel uncomfortable. What about the widows, the deserted wife, the single dad? This though is not quite what it seems- at the moment there is a disincentive to claim tax credits as a couple (married or otherwise). The benefits paid (to those financially eligible) are based on one parent present. Full stop. It is this that is massive social engineering (please note, Mr. Balls).
There is also a particular challenge, right now. Even if we agree with it, can we afford it? If we think it’s the right thing to do then the best way forward is to target the area that most needs it. In the raising of children giving parents better financial support in the early years is crucial. There is no time quite like it for forcing parents to make a choice: do we both work or not? But usually it comes down to the question: can we afford not to both work? In our society with large rents and mortgage repayments it is not feasible for many (especially at the middle and lower end of the spectrum) to choose one full-time income alone. Too many parents are unwillingly both working- anything society can do to make this choice real should be welcome by us all. Children are big supporters of marriage; it is the most stable form of relationship providing the best outcomes for offspring. Combining these themes, the Centre for Social Justice has provided a modest proposal of a transferable tax allowance for all parents with children up to the age of 3 years old. It looks affordable, well-targeted and well, socially just. Whatever your political background it is worthy of serious consideration.
For more reading on the couple penalty in the benefits system read here.
For further reading how the UK is at odds with other countries on taxation and marriage read here.