Monday, 20 June 2011

Cameron on Absentee Fathers.

The trick, when trying to sell a position that you wish others to take up, is to make it sound as inoffensive and as obvious as possible. It's not so much about giving people a reason to say Yes as not giving them any reason to say No.

Everyone does it to some extent. The teenager says to his parents 'I just want to spend some time with my friends' when pleading for permission to indulge in late night activities. Spending time with their friends seems perfectly reasonable but with a couple of questions you may soon find out that the night may end up involving all manner of things you find completely disagreeable.

Where I find it used most is in Politics where, naturally, political positions are the order of the day. Yesterday, David Cameron used it quite brilliantly when writing for The Sunday Telegraph yesterday. He was writing about the importance of fathers to Children. Something nearly everyone can universally agree on. In particular he focused on absentee fathers, or runaway dads as he referred to them. He said he wanted the UK to be a place that is hostile towards such people.

That's not a particularly offensive view and it seems pretty obvious doesn't it? Well that's the point. So let's now examine this a little more. The Prime Minister is using this piece to promote and agenda. Again, there is nothing wrong with that and is the whole point of writing such a piece, but what, exactly is the agenda being pushed? Is it that we should make the country hostile to runaway dads? If it is, then Cameron must be implying that it isn't currently.

Now it starts to get a little more interesting because I believe, quite firmly, that the country as a whole is overly hostile to runaway dads. At least it is to those that fit the description in the truest form; those that have completely abandoned their children. Does anyone really know someone that has done that and regard them in any sort of positive light? To use Cameron's comparison, I know people who have been caught over the legal limit and, due to the circumstances of the case, I'd be more tolerant of them than someone who has nothing to do with their children for no good reason. Cameron isn't stupid; he knows that there isn't a real problem with tolerance of runaway dads in the country. So just what is his agenda?

We get a clue when he talks about single mothers. He lauds single mothers. He condemns runaway dads. He explicitly links the two. It is binary thinking. A single mother, in Cameron's mind, means a runaway father. In reality of course, this is hardly ever the case. Single parents exist for a whole variety of reasons but the overwhelming majority of children who are raised predominantly by one parent are in regular contact with the other who will, usually, be financially supporting the child where possible.

There are parents, mostly fathers, who completely abandon their children. They are not, however, the norm and so are not causing significant damage to the fabric of society.

In fairness to Cameron, he did touch on his hopes to address the issues underlying the cause of single parenting. What he doesn't address however, is the uneven hand that fathers are dealt when the relationship with the child's mother breaks down. It is desperately unhealthy for one 'side' to be able to wield all the power and that is unquestionably what happens. There are, of course, many many more issues as to why the relationship may break down in the first place but as Cameron has focused on what happens once it does - fathers running away or, as is most likely; being a smaller part of the child's life than is best for all - he should have at least tried to address why it happens.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that this piece effectively buried the news that there are plans to make mothers using the CSA pay for the privilege?!! How does that support ANY single parent? Surely, if someone is driven to contacting the CSA it is due to not getting any financial support and therefore once contact is made with the absent parent it is they who should pay any fee payable not the poor parent who had to resort to using the CSA in the first place!!!