What’s the most controversial thing you’ve ever heard a politician say? 

In America, there are probably plenty of choices. But in Britain, the words recently sparking an uproar might be somewhat surprising, given that they’re a simple defense of what most citizens hold nearest and dearest — the family. 

“The normative family, the mother and father sticking together for the sake of the children, is the only basis for a safe and functioning society. Marriage is not only about you; it’s a public act to live for the sake of someone else,” said Danny Kruger, a Parliament member, who, as you might expect, is a Conservative Party politician, and who was speaking at a National Conservatism conference to largely conservatively minded people.  

About five minutes ago, these sentiments would be so unthinkably obvious that they wouldn’t be worth talking about, let alone making headlines like they did.

From whom did the uproar come? Was it from the purveyors of “woke” hysteria who would tear down the nuclear family and sacrifice all on the altar of self-autonomy? 

Not quite. 

The backlash came, in part, from senior Parliament members, from that same Conservative Party, who lined up to distance themselves from those terribly “controversial” comments.  

That’s a grievous irony given that strong families are a proven remedy to so many of the societal hardships experienced by those in Britain today.  

The U.K. marriage rate is at an all-time low. Like the U.S., we’re a nation plagued by loneliness and depression. More people live alone than ever before, with younger generations increasingly pulled to work and study opportunities far from home. Approximately 2 million children in the U.K. have lost all contact with their father, fueling poorer mental health among our next generation, and feeding into a growing gang culture.

Half of women don’t have children before the age of 30; some by choice, but many by circumstance. Many haven’t been able to find a responsible and committed partner, or they haven’t managed to buy a house, or find the desired financial security, or the flexible working structure they wanted before starting a family. Many feel completely disempowered.

Two hundred thousand lives are lost every year to abortion in England and Wales. Almost 1 in 5 of the women who make the decision to do so say that they did so against their will. The trend has a negative impact on not only women as individuals, but society as a whole. Our precariously upturned demographic pyramid is on the verge of a crisis.  

In short, our social outlook is fairly bleak.  

Strong family units, on the other hand, can reverse these trends. This isn’t “trad” guff.  It’s just truth, borne out in the data.

Perspective: Cohabitation doesn’t help your odds of marital success
Perspective: The surprising case for marrying young

According to the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics, getting married makes people happier with their lives than earning big salaries does, and married people report higher life satisfaction than singles or cohabiting couples.

Children who live with married parents report better mental health. Fathers in the home are one of the strongest safeguards against adolescent poverty and crime. Women who are married are significantly less likely to be the victims of violent crime. Men who are married are less likely to perpetrate violent crimes. 

The benefits are so clear. Yet despite 13 years in power, the British conservative government has utterly failed to support and uphold families in any meaningful way. 

Why do we feel so awkward talking about the thing people value most — our families? Have meaningful family relationships really become so out of vogue in the elite bubble? 

When conservatives hush their conservative values in order to seem less, well, conservative, the government’s leading principle moves from a socially balanced plan for growth to an economically driven sledgehammer.

As more and more people have bought into the principle that female empowerment comes from treating women exactly like men, very little has been done to help mothers except to help them outsource the raising of their children to the state, getting them back into the office as soon as possible after birth.  

For some women, that’s great. They derive meaning and fulfillment from their careers. 

For many women, that’s terrible. They don’t have careers, they have jobs, and they derive meaning and fulfillment from raising their children well. 

This isn’t a soft excuse for staying out of work. Empowering the next generation is essential for the government if there is to be any hope for the future. The labor of raising children should be appreciated and rewarded by society. 

But by blindly valuing every adult only by their contribution to the gross domestic product, or GDP, rather than their investment in their families, the government has failed to protect the very reason we want a healthy economy in the first place — to serve the people, and not the other way around.  

There are so many ideas throughout Europe and the West about to how to tackle the problems of the day through better familial support. France and Germany, for example, have invested in caregiver allowances, while various other countries have resolved to tax households, rather than individuals, in order to allow parents to better distribute responsibilities among themselves. 

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Hungary even went further, exempting mothers of four children from taxes for the rest of their lives and contributing significantly to the purchases of seven-seater cars for families that need them. The Nordic countries give generous maternity and paternity allowances that empower parents to recover and invest in the early stages of their children’s development. Of course these policies need thorough vetting to test what works and what doesn’t. But the world isn’t short on ideas. 

But before we get anywhere close to pro-family reforms, we need to be able to articulate that we are pro-family. “Please can we stop talking about this,” pleaded Parliament member and former Health Secretary Matt Hancock in response to Kruger’s comments, “because it will put us out of power for a generation!” 

Hancock is wrong. Most people believe that their family is important, that children deserve stability, that you shouldn’t go to jail for saying, or thinking, unpopular things, and yes, most people even believe that 200,000 abortions a year is too many, and that women deserve better. The more we act like these are unacceptable beliefs, the more they will become so. Conservatives mustn’t throw common sense out of the Overton window for fear of looking — heaven forbid — conservative.   

Lois McLatchie writes for Alliance Defending Freedom UK, a legal advocacy group which protects fundamental freedoms. 

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