Change the discussion—and policy—when it comes to familiesby Harriet Harman / February 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
All prime ministers talk about families, which isn’t surprising. After all, families are everything for a child and for an elderly person—and very important for all the years in between. But, if I ruled the world, I’d have something to say about the way that politicians had this discussion.
I’d ban them from going on about how important marriage is and how damaging divorce is. Most cabinets are full of ministers on their second or third wives so they are in no position to lecture. I’d ban sneering at lone mothers too. The mean message it sends to their children is: “There’s something wrong with your family and therefore something wrong with you.”
I’d forcibly narrow the gap between what women and men earn. It benefits children to have a strong relationship with both mother and father. But most new fathers can’t afford to take more than a few days off. It’s hard for fathers if they work all hours and end up missing out on the children. We should have Swedish-style paternity pay and time off. But I’d keep a careful eye out for spikes in the number of men taking family leave during the World Cup.