The Global Campaign for Men and Boys
A right wing Tory MP has called for “feckless fathers” to be dragged away, put in chains and forced to work.
Speaking in a House of Commons debate, David Davies, deputy leader of the Welsh Conservative Party, said:
“I think it is absolutely outrageous that so many young men in our society feel they can go out, get women pregnant, allow them to have children, make them bring them up by themselves, very often on benefits, and then disappear.
“I hope that the ministers will take note of this and get hold of some of these feckless fathers, drag them off, make them work, put them in chains if necessary, make them work and make them pay back society for the cost of bringing up the children they chose to bring into this world.”
The outspoken comments reflect a shift in narrative that has taken place in the past 20 years from bashing single mums to bashing separated dads.
In 1992, the Conservative Secretary of State for Social Security, Peter Lilley, famously entertained his party’s conference with his “little list” of “scroungers” he was going to clamp down on including: “young ladies who get pregnant just to jump the housing queue and dads who won’t support the kids of the ladies that they’ve………..kissed”
The speech became a symbol of the Conservatives’ “nasty” approach to lone parents, an image reformers in the party worked hard to shake off whilst in opposition. In 2002, David Willetts MP said to his party: “let me make it absolutely clear: the Tory war on lone parents is over.”
He explained that many lone mothers were caring for children after being abandoned by the fathers and were doing the responsible thing. This defined the party’s new narrative on lone parents in which the Conservatives praise lone mothers and either ignore or attack the fathers of their children.
In 2004, for example, the shadow women’s minister Eleanor Laing threw her weight behind a YWCA campaign to treat teenage mums with more respect and distanced herself and the party from Peter Lilley’s “little list”. She said:
“He was wrong in the way he put it – you shouldn’t make a joke about these things. It’s not a joke to a girl who is 16 and she’s about to have a baby or she’s had a baby…..I think that the word respect is absolutely perfect because someone who is the mother of a child is doing an extremely difficult job.”
Notably, there was no reference to the need to respect young or separated fathers as well.
In 2010, David Cameron, chose his first Fathers’ Day as Prime Minister as an opportunity to re-enforce his party’s new pro-mum/anti-dad narrative declaring:
“We need to make Britain a genuinely hostile place for fathers who go AWOL….it’s high time runaway dads were stigmatised, and the full force of shame was heaped upon them. They should be looked at like drink-drivers, people who are beyond the pale. They need the message rammed home to them, from every part of our culture, that what they’re doing is wrong – that leaving single mothers, who do a heroic job against all odds, to fend for themselves simply isn’t acceptable.”
Note the distinction between single mothers who are “heroic” and separated fathers who should be “stigmatised”.
The Labour Party, which attacked the Conservatives for bashing lone mothers in the 1980s and 1990s, has picked up on Conservatives’ father bashing narrative, but hasn’t made it a mainstream issue. In May, the party’s policy co-ordinator, Jon Cruddas, claimed that “the Conservatives have dominated debate about the family with their stereotype of a feckless underclass of absent fathers”.
According to Cruddas, “the majority of men feel fathers are undervalued,” and “Labour will value the role of fathers”, though there’s been little evidence of this happening yet. Critics of Labour’s record on fathers point to the IPPR report “Family Way”, co-authored by Harriet Harman MP in 1990, which said “it cannot be assumed that men are bound to be an asset to family life or that the presence of fathers in families is necessarily a means to social cohesion”.
Criticism has also come from within the party with David Lammy MP warning that the “same liberals who fought so hard for single mothers now give the impression that fatherlessness does not matter at all.
Returning to David Davies MP, it’s not the first time he’s courted controversy. In 2010 he spoke out about a 13 year old Muslim boy who raped a woman in Stoke-on-Trent saying:
“There do seem to be some people in some communities who don’t respect women’s rights at all, and……..who have imported into this country barbaric and medieval views about women, and that is something that needs to be addressed. What is it about this young man’s upbringing, what about his community or his parental upbringing that led him to think that women are second-class people whose rights can be trampled over like this?”
Ironically, Mr Davies doesn’t recognize that one of the biggest barriers to separated fathers being involved in their children’s lives is the the fact dads don’t have equal rights with mums and are still treated as second-class parents by all the instruments of The State. If suggesting that the solution to this is to lock fathers in chains doesn’t amount to having barbaric and medieval views about men, we don’t know what does.
At the time of writing we’ve yet to hear another MP speak up for fathers in this debate, if you do hear of any such comments please let us know—-you may be interested to read Ally Fogg’s comments in left-wing The Guardian.
If you are outraged by David Davies’ barbaric and medieval views about fathers then why not tell send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop him a polite message on twitter @davidtcdavies
You can find out more about the ways dads in the UK are treated unequally by reading our eBook Equality For Men by Glen Poole which you can download today for £10 via this link:
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Photo Credit: Flickr/.v1ctor.Casale.