Saturday 10 April 2010


The Tories have unveiled a tax break for married couples which will be funded by a levy on banks.

They hope that this will “seal the deal” with the electorate.

Oh dear. How I laughed! They really are out of touch aren’t they?

George Osborne called the tax break “modern and progressive”, although I’m not sure why, except that they are probably meaningless buzz words that his spin people have told him will impress us ordinary folk.

Osborne insisted that promoting marriage in the tax system is not preachy but says “a society where more people are married is a stronger society”. Actually, I’m not sure that it is, but it makes good money for solicitors when the divorces come along so, at least someone profits.

So, anyway, actually it is preachy, but preachy for a reason in that it pleases the old dears who read the Daily Mail, who maybe haven’t given much thought about how much difference a wee piece of paper actually means and who maybe hope that everything will be fine again if only people get married. To be gay friendly (this may be the modern and progressive bit? and the bit the blue rinses will have palpitations over), the package will apply to Civil Partnerships as well!

It will only benefit a third of married/civilly partnered couples and, wait for it, the maximum benefit of £150 a year would be enjoyed by those couples where the main earner takes home between £7,300 and £42,500. OK. So the tax bribe for getting married will only affect 1/3 of married couples and will be worth at the most £2.88 a week.

Brilliant idea Mr Osborne. You really are a star. I can see people rushing out to get married. The Registry and Registrars’ Offices, churches, mosques and temples, chapels and synagogues will be doing a roaring trade if you get in next

You preachy old thing you.

Osborne is taking a huge risk of course with the City of London, and for that matter Edinburgh’s financial district. His proposals will tax banks to pay for this without waiting for international agreement. He is staking his credibility on other countries following his lead. I’m not entirely sure that following George Osborne is something I’d be rushing to do.

According to the Times the tax allowance is planned for next April, although there is no formal commitment from the party to bring it in then.

The marriage tax break was first mooted by David Cameron in 2005 and was intended to be for couples with young children. I imagined at that time that it would be something financially worthwhile, a bribe, if you like, to get couples to marry. But at under £3 per person, per week, the whole thing is surely designed only to create a headline in the Daily Mail that will please the blue rinses.

Nick Clegg has described the proposals as patronizing drivel that belongs in the Edwardian age and I’m inclined to agree. Even people at the bottom end of the tax bracket aren’t going to go to all the expense of getting married so that can buy 1 ½ extra loaves of bread a week.

To each individual the money means nothing but it will cost half a billion a year. I’m not sure what that would build in today’s world, but it might pay off some of our gigantic debt.

Maybe this wasn’t the brightest move.....Time for Ken Clarke at Number 11?

Pic: A typical wedding affordable for everyone with the new Tory tax breaks; and George Osborne, author of this great fortune.


  1. Poor old David Cameron he really has nobody of any use in his shadow cabinet does he? Certainly none now that William Hague has fallen foul of the Lord Ashcroft affair, with the here is a peerage now remember to pay tax on your honour; “I will” says Lord A giving the two fingered salute usual on these occasions and laughing all the way to the bank. Then Chris Gayling fell foul of the pink vote by suggesting that these filthy abominations should not enjoy the same rights as actual human beings. Mrs Cameron is no use after those moody pics. So he is down to a minority even smaller than gay people i.e. useful or clever people in the Conservative Party!

  2. He's pretty much alone Munguin. Ken Clarke is his only asset and maybe George Younger. The rest are washouts.

    He has to do the lot himself, poor soul.

  3. Cameron made a commitment and to salvage his credibility they cobbled up this rag bag policy.

    which shows what a self obsessed vain tosser Cameron really is. Its all about making a gesture
    well Dave here is your gesture its you all right

  4. I think you insult the blue rinse brigade Tris. Being young you perhaps have no understanding of what marriage meant to older men and women. It gave women a status for one thing, not equality mind you, but it gave them the right for them to have legitimate children. Also, for many, it was the final commitment of love.

    Now of course it's ridiculed as something us oldies respected. Nowadays we have a society where thousands of children don't even have their father's name on their birth certificate, far less know who he is. That's what distresses me more than anything. We'll have children, when they become adults, having problems because they want to find their roots and can't.

    As for any other of formal commitment I'm all for it. If people feel the need to publicly declare their love for one another that's great. The piece of paper matters to many so don't say it doesn't. It always will no matter how much there are those who mock these ceremonies.

  5. Sorry Tris, but I couldn't disagree more with you on this one, and it is not out of petty Party loyalty either.

    You say, "Osborne insisted that promoting marriage in the tax system is not preachy but says “a society where more people are married is a stronger society”. Actually, I’m not sure that it is"

    I rather think that, like you, there could be a residual element of Cornerstone Tory type politics at play here, but I will add that Osborne is a known liberal on social issues, much more to the centre than Cameron. This policy is generally about responding to social breakdown, and surely a tax system which symbolically and financially penalises marrage is counter productive?

    I accept that not all families which are married [or civil parnerships] 'stay together' but; that said; they do present a more secure environment, generally speaking, than other enironments for bringing up the national youth.

    IDS has done a heck of a lot of work into this, and the CSJ [centre for social justice] does have some really compelling evidence that marraige could be a key plank in fighting back against social breakdown in all of its horrible forms.

    It isn't [or should not be] preachy, this is hardly John Mjaors warm beer moment- this is about responding to clear evidence.
    For example, while the rate of marriage remaisn high, and the % of unde 35s intending to marry continues to remain above 75%, we see that the rates of broken married homes are falling:

    "In England andWales
    there were around 129,000 divorces in 2007, a fall of three per cent from 2006 and
    the lowest number since 1979 (when there were around 127,000 divorces)"

    [note: all % and citations are from CSJ, 'Every Family Matters" A Policy Report by the Family Law Review', found here: pdf doc]

    Given then that marriage is on the rise, and divorce showing signs of falling, and that it is a financial contract, a moral covenant and also religous, surely it only strengthens the idea; the argument; that it is the safest, strongest and most suitable method of child rearing in the 21st Century?

    Sorry Tris, but I do not agree with your central thust here that my lot are being moralists, or old fashoned out of touch fogies. I rather think we are ahead of the curve.

  6. SR:

    Well we may disagree on this as we do on many things without damaging our friendship.

    I am afraid that this is just a gesture. £2.88 isn’t worth anything. I really doubt if George would bend down to pick it up if he dropped it. So it isn’t a serious attempt to bribe people to get married, because no one will go to all that bother for £2.88.

    In the olden days when women were not equal subjects, but their fathers’ property until someone married them, I can understand that it would be important to a woman to be married. (Probably to get the hell away from her father.) Of course it gave them stability and a roof over their head in return for cleaning and cooking and child bearing at the bottom of the social scale, and running the household servants and agreeing the menu... and producing the heir and the spare at the top. (At the top they were often ignored after that and the man took another married woman on.)

    That of course is not any longer the case. Women wanted equality and got it...well, they more than got it really because they got all the good things that they wanted without having to give up any of the good things they already had.

    Today they do not need a husband we are always hearing. They do not need men. They can open a bank account without their husband’s permission and have a credit card likewise, which only 30 years ago they couldn’t. I’m surprised that the modern woman gives up her own name and becomes a chattel, for that is what they used to do with marriage. She entered the registrars’ Miss Agnes Peabody and left it Mrs William Smith... He entered and left with no change.

    In Scotland, it has long been that “common law wife” was as legally acceptable in law as real wife, and to be honest it’s as long ago that I heard the term “illegitimate”, or “bastard” used about a child born out of wedlock as I heard the word “nigger”. All three equally distasteful, in my opinion.

    There is no protection in marriage. If after 3 months of marriage the man ups and leaves, although nowadays it is as likely to be the woman that does that with all this equality, no one can do anything about it.

    (there's more)

  7. Of course when I referred to “blue rinses” I was referring to a certain group of people who have rather fixed views about all sorts of things. They are the archetypical and fabled readers of the Daily Mail, who look as if there is a permanent smell under their noses, have premature wrinkles from disliking everything and they vote Tory, not because they have the foggiest idea what the Tories stand for, but because one just does, and one meets a nice class of person at the Conservative Club. I’ve met lots of them. (Sorry Dean, I know there are nice young Tories.)

    I have them in my own family. They think that what one wears is more important that what one does and fondly remember belting hell out of children for dropping stitches in their knitting; or for not being able to recite the ten commandments (not understand them you know, just recite them).

    In all the changes, no one has ever stopped anyone getting married. The option has always been there to marry if one wanted, could afford the horrific cost of it, and was likely to be able to pay the horrific cost of the almost inevitable divorce. No one ever laughed at someone for getting married (although sometimes they have choked themselves at the choice!!) What was done, and if I’m not wrong it was done by the Tories, or started by them, was that there was no tax concession for married men. There had been in the days when a wife would be an additional cost in the household because she had no earnings and had to be kept by the man. The man then was given by the government a certain amount (around £20 a week in the end I think) to keep his wife. It was reasonable to stop this in a world where women worked and had equal earning potential to a man.

    Of course I know that people do not always get divorced. But you know, in all my life, with friends, relatives, neighbours and colleagues, I have only once met a couple who genuinely were glad that they had got married. At 60+ and married for 35 years they still loved each other madly, and were genuinely happy. The rest have either split up or live in relative, resigned misery.

    My point is that a piece of paper from the government to say that you are married doesn’t actually change anyone’s behaviour. If we want to change the behaviour of people who have babies willy nilly with half a dozen partners, then a little piece of paper that costs money is not going to do it... and £2.88 a week certainly won’t.

    Problem there most surely is. This is not the solution. Osborn would be better to listen to I. Duncan Smith for that.

    Phew... that was long ..... wake up SR.... I know it was boring but it's too early to sleep.

  8. SR:
    Dean. Thank you for that considered reply.

    I'm not against people getting married, not at all. And neither has, to be fair, this awful Labour government. They simply don't give out your and my tax money to people to do it.

    It's there, and the figures you provide show that despite the lack of tax bribe (or incentive as I’m sure you guys will call it, it’s on the increase. (Granted that the figures are for England as all figures usually are... the benefits of the union don’t you now LOL).

    I’m not sure that a marriage that can easily be ended is really any more stable an environment for a child, than two people who love each other living together.

    The most important ingredient in a child’s upbringing is love... If it’s not there then no matter how many certificates one has from the government, the child will be unhappy. A married couple continually bickering and fighting and picking on each other is a disaster for a kid. I’d say two parents best, but one loving parent is better than two people determined to outdo, and hurt each other.

    There is no doubt that we must tackle the social breakdown that we have. We need to determine what causes it. And in my opinion there are all manner of things; different ones at different levels in society. At the bottom there is poverty; lack of suitable jobs for the uneducated. (I know that political correctness should stop me saying this but we still have as many low intellect people, looking for manual labour as we did 50 years ago, and we don’t have 1% of the jobs.) We have poor housing; drugs; expectations driven by films, pop “stars”, telly; bad management at work... and on and on....

    Farther up the social scale we have a real rat race; presenteeism, targets, higher and higher expectations, competition with the wife for the bigger bonus, tiredness...frustration. Children left with the child minder at 6.30 am and picked up at 7 pm.....

    In all cases we seem to live in a mean society which threw the baby out with the bathwater, as other nations did not do. Drugs and alcohol present a growing problem at all levels; our crumbling infrastructure makes life such a misery here. In Holland, for example, the buses and the trains run on time and are co-orinated, making the journey to work easy if not pleasurable. Here people arrive frustrated and angry. People are so rude in Britain; service is bad; nothing works; call centres are populated by people who simply don’t give a stuff about whether your repairs get done or not... the list Dean is endless.

    That’s what’s wrong with Britain. Seriously not pieces of paper which can be thrown away.

    If marriages are on the up, there seems little point in Mr Osborne handing out money we don’t have to people who, in the main, won’t much want it. I mean I’m not well off, but I wouldn’t make a huge fuss over £2.88.

    It’s a really interesting discussion though because somewhere somehow there is an answer to this... and if we talk (or type) long enough we may even find it :¬) (there’s a wee bit more)

  9. Dean.....

    Maybe an idea Dean would be to use the tax money to extend maternity leave and paternity leave for couples, so that they would spend time with their kids... Maybe in some part time way, I don’t know but I’d loved to have worked with Duncan-Smith on it. I’m passionate about it.
    What I mean is that by making men wear ties, women wear skirts and calling children born out of wedlock illegitimate, we are not going to restore Scotland to perfection... It will take a lot more than that...
    Whatever the answer, it will be hard to do, but it is worth trying. That’s why I see this sop to the Daily Mail as a waste of money

  10. Tris,

    At the moment we through our tax and benefit system enourage families to split up, rather than stay together. Now family life can be tough and hard going, and the additional pressure that comes with a government which simply adds to this burden is simply bad.


    That said, I wish to reiterate this is not some kind of Daily Mail agenda motivation here. We who support this policy do not do so because it statisfies some kind of 190s love in of what society should be. Mate, it is a simply response to what perfectly valid data and research is telling us. Nothing of the moralising Daily Mail agenda in this at all.

  11. I certainly agree that the benefit system should not encourage people to live apart, although we must add to that the retirement pensions for single pensioners are a great deal more than half the married ones....

    I have no problem at all with marriage, although I simply do not see how a piece of paper can possibly sort the problems that inevitably occur when two people try to live together, especially in some tiny little house with rooms so small you can barely get round the furniture.

    But I fail to see what giving people £2.88 is going to do to improve the situation.

    Sorry dean. The money, if we had it, would be better spent on kids, not married couples, or on the lamentably badly treated OAPs.

    I guess we won’t agree, but it’s fun discussing. I know you’re not a Daily Mail man... Lord you’re more left wing than me sometimes LOL....

  12. Dave: Certainly is just a gesture!