FAMILY LIFE SPEECH draft 6
(Words – 4,300)
Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to you today, and for the chance to hear your reactions to what I’ve got to say.
It was Fathers Day on Sunday so this is a good time to be talking about family and parenting issues.
I’m particularly delighted that the NFPI is hosting an event which matters so much to me personally.
The NFPI does a fantastic job in representing the interests of parents in our country, putting their issues on the agenda, and above all approaching those issues in an openminded, reasonable and practical way. And can I also thank Vodafone for their support in making today’s event possible.
A few weeks ago, I made a speech that started setting out a new political agenda for my Party.
It’s based on an understanding that there’s more to life than money… …and that we should focus not just on GDP, but also on GWB – General Well-Being. Improving our society’s sense of well-being is, I believe, one of the central political challenges of our times.
Today I want to talk about what, for me, is the most important aspect of well-being: family life.
IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY LIFE
For all children and most adults, our family is the most important thing in our lives. My personal belief in the importance of family is based on my own experience. But it is also based on the answer to a very simple question. Which institution in our society does more than any other to care for the elderly; to look after the disabled; to bring up children with the right values; to pick up the pieces when things go wrong with drugs, alcohol, or mental health?
It's the family.
As Ferdinand Mount pointed out in his book The Subversive Family, the family has survived every attempt to bend it, break it or shape it to different ends, whether religious, ideological or sociological.
And in a world of faster and faster change, with fewer and fewer fixed points, the family can be our rock in a stormy sea.
That’s why I think of the family not as something that belongs to the past, but very much part of the future.
Of course it’s ironic that all the functions of the family I’ve described do not count towards GDP when performed free within the family…
…but they are counted as soon as they are formalised and provided by a third party for money.
It’s a perfect example of how measures of national income or national wealth don’t tell the whole story.
If you’re a child growing up in a family where something is going wrong, it will be of very little comfort to know that the UK's gross domestic product is growing… …even if members of the family are sharing in that economic growth. Family life isn't a direct component of GDP.
But it’s a huge component of GWB - the general well-being of our nation.
FAMILY AND POLITICS
So I don’t believe that politicians can be cold and amoral about family life. We can't just take a vow of silence on the grounds that family life is beyond the reach of hard-edged economics and hard-edged administration.
But neither do I believe that politicians should be using the levers of power to force people into certain lifestyles or family forms.
We must not imagine that legislation, regulation, targets and bureaucracies will somehow be able to engineer happy families.
This is the paradox of politics: politicians should not dictate how people choose to live their lives – but we cannot be indifferent to the choices that people make. Since I became Conservative leader I have constantly re-stated the two values which underlie everything I believe.
I believe in trusting people – that if you let people make their own decisions, they and society will grow stronger.
But I also believe that we’re all in this together – that no man is an island, and that we owe more to our neighbours than simply to leave them alone.
In reconciling these values, I have tried to develop a new politics which avoids the choice between amoral indifference...
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