Monday, 31 December 2012

These are a few of my favourite things... of 2012

It's been an interesting year. I don't think I can do as well as my friend Kirsty Newman (@kirstyevidence on twitter) with her 12 days of evidence post but I will attempt to list some of my personal highlights and work I have appreciated this year:

Top 5 other blogs

Top of my list has to be Dan Hodges on Julian Assange case - his usual forensic analysis coupled with articulate insight into why the Left tie themselves up so much with him

In addition: 

Stephen Tall on the Leveson recommendations

Prateek Buch with one of the best posts of the year on the size of the state

Hopi Sen on expecting our politicians to be perfect

Tim Montgomerie making the conservative case for equal marriage

In addition you can hear Stephen Tall, Hopi and Tim on this excellent edition of Westminster Hour

My year

In September I wrote this, Gloria De Piero MP asked why people hate her? and Hopi Sen wrote the piece above about expecting politicians to be perfect.

I received a lot of feedback on my post, some from some quite surprising places! However, it's clear across parties there is a need to connect better with voters.

One of the best parts of this year has been both forming new and having closer friendships, and some of my best memories come from there this year - from Stone Roses in Heaton Park through the Reading Festival, Lib Dem conference, hiking and camping in Wales and finally finishing the year with a Frank Turner concert with my boyfriend.

Top 5 Blog Posts

My top five (as in most read) blog posts on this blog this year:

Growth - read about 4 times more than it's closest rival!

Emotions and the Art of Politics (well almost)

Open Up Lobbying Manchester - an activist's perspective

Don't Menschn the kids....

Relationship Breakdown between the Electorate and Elected


I'd like politics to have more in it about relationships. I'm not sure why but British politicians seem to have a lot to say about marriage, or supporting single parents / hard working families, but not a lot about how we relate to each other. Which, is quite weird when you think about it, given politics is about people.

As I research this, I realised more and more how much more I need to know, and am considering both college courses and further forms of research as a result..... I'm also keen to develop my campaigning experience, enjoy both Lib Dem conferences next year, buy a new car, and complete my first marathon. I hope to have as many readers of this blog next year, and maybe a few more.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

450 out of 1000 children in UK will see parents separate

I was going to write a review of the year but that'll have to wait, besides it's taking longer than I thought. In the meantime.....

This article seems to belong in the Torygraph but actually appears in the Independant!

It talks about how 450 in every 1000 children in Britain today will see their parents separate 

Having had some experience of this, my own parents are divorced, I have both personal and political opinions on this. An acquaintance also once commented that she was far better off due to tax credits after she split from her partner and some other evidence backs this up. - illustrating that the tax credits incentivise people to split up - I doubt this comes into why people split up in a lot of cases, but it can't help. The figures are before maintenance as well.....

The article goes on to wax lyrical about marriage, which although I'm pretty much in favour of marriage for me personally, I don't think it's the only answer. Plenty of people want to stay together, commit to each other and have children without marrying and I think that's just fine, for them - as long as that's what they both want. As a friend pointed out, marriage doesn't necessarily mean commitment. And committing to each other doesn't necessarily have to mean marriage, tho in my mind they are linked.

What a lack of interest in marriage may signal is a lack of interest in commitment tho, and that is a different matter. The idea of committing to having children but not staying together to me seems backwards, but I do make effort to try and understand it. I guess because the drive to have kids is so strong, and the drive to work with someone else to build a life together can be..... less strong. It involves a bit of setting aside what you want. It involves loving an adult, and an adult can both make their own decision to leave you, and also argue back - it's a lot harder than loving a family member. 

It's really, really, really hard to form another relationship if one or both people have kids tho, but I do know some people who've managed it. It involves all sorts of dynamics that we haven't really evolved to handle, and that psychotherapists are only just coming up with now.

The startling thing is we are so much worse than the other OECD countries..... that goes against a lot of the received wisdom that

a) this is just because human beings aren't meant to commit or be monogamous
b) children are just as happy when parents separate because "they adapt"
c) people in more advanced countries are more likely to separate
d) If the other person doesn't magically "make you happy" you must look elsewhere and not within

If personal growth, maturity, commitment  love, trust, respect and honesty could be taught, how much better would we get on? What's the research on this? Do people take responsibility for making a relationship work? Do they take responsibility for themselves and own their feelings and understanding of each other - or is it all left to some mythical person who may not exist to "complete" them?

I'm worried that in effect we contract out our emotions to be based on some ideal person, don't understand the impact our parents have on us and our search for a partner, and also, more and more, the 1 in 3 men under 35 that live at home, an consequently don't really learn to co-exist with anyone they aren't related to, and who therefore are extremely unlikely to leave them - meaning the worst of behaviour goes unchecked ergo difficulty in relationships in the future......

One problem has begat another - initially people were staying in loveless marriages either because they couldn't get divorced for financial reasons and/or social stigma. Now we have people leaving relationships after a few years and children growing up being shuffled from house to house, which isn't really ideal either. I'm sure most people do the absolute best that they know how under the circumstances and I wouldn't presume to judge them, but I'm also wondering how many people would access therapy if it was available at a reasonable cost....

On a squeezed income, which families are going to go without food or heating to pay the £40 a week most therapists ask for? Relate offer subsidized sessions, but are very over-subscribed. 

Is it time we asked ourselves what type of society we want, whether we can try and give parents tools to try and stay together and whether that would cost more than the tax credits we are paying out at present to support children in separated families. Are we really happier this way?

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Marriage. Equal or not, what do we think?

So because it's relevant I started talking about marriage this week, both on twitter at my account @Bubbalou and on Facebook on various statuses and groups.

As with many things there were as many opinions as people. I had to examine my own beliefs and why I think the way I do. It's relevant to the equal marriage debate: the primary focus is rightly the equality issue but I wanted to focus on marriage, and not just because Tory MPs are embarrassing their party by coming out with nonsense like "[David Cameron will] have civil disobedience and an estrangement of faith  communities"

Key themes that came from talking about this the last couple of days:

Commitment - one comment was to the effect of "staying together even after you don't want to anymore" is not a good idea. I don't really see it that way. When/if/as I have met a person I think I can spend the rest of my life with, I think I'm ready to make that commitment. I don't think that's necessary for everyone.

Some people may be as, or more, committed than I am without marriage. Some may be less within a marriage. I do however think that's important enough for me, to be a bit of a deal-breaker if my partner didn't feel the same way.

Children - I believe married life is what I want as a background to my children's lives. This took a lot of time to think about. Mostly I think it's because that's how I grew up. My parents divorced after I left home, and none-with-standing whether I think that is or was a good idea or not, I think it's wise to at least start with that aim in mind, staying together forever, if you are planning on having kids.

I understand how step-families can work, and was part of one for a short time, so again not wanting to judge. I also think with effort, commitment (there is that word again!) and communication, this can work, much like many other relationships.

I'd like to avoid splitting up if possible. There are many reasons, but one is given mostly how much hard work it seems to be to bring up kids, I'd like to have a partner to help me through that as much as anything - and I'd like that to be one who lives in the same house.

"Outdated" values - this was a fascinating point which came from a debate about whether I would, or others would, prefer a married candidate as a PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate). Clearly as a liberal with meritocratic aims - I would choose on the basis of merit. However, I would expect most voters would prefer a married candidate and this (preference 
from voters) was viewed as "outdated" by at least one person.

I don't think my preference for marriage is outdated - I think what is outdated is thinking that's the only way to live.

Feminism - some commented that as a feminist I might be against the institution of marriage as it had been one of the ways the patriarchy controlled women. I don't find this a compelling reason against marriage, and neither does Caitlin Moran, I'm thinking as she got married.

However on the flip side, this is interesting research here for men and here for women, is fascinating tho and blew my mind. Men can get paid up to 44% more for being married - the article I've linked to is interesting as it suggests that it may be that married men are simply more conscientious, ambitious, and cooperative - or as another friend put it, "conformist".

It takes two people to get married, and it's probably safe to conclude that not everyone who'd like to be married is, as they may not be with anyone at all, someone they don't want to marry or they may have compromised on this desire in order to be with a specific person or have children with them.  I found this whole conversation fascinating, especially as a Lib Dem, mainly talking to Lib Dems for this exercise, that we are very in favour of equal marriage (as we should be!) but some of us may be ambivalent about the actual institution of marriage itself.

Which is much to our credit. It's good we can campaign for others something we don't necessarily want for ourselves. And good that most of the people I talked to were happy that I could choose marriage - one or two commented that they think it's for mugs and are against the concept as a whole, even for other people. That I can't really get on board with - if people want to get married, let them.

So yes, Louise Shaw is OUT for Equal Marriage, and marriage in general.