Lib Dems attack Tories’ tax-war on widows, working couples and jilted wives

A tax-break for married couples, is how the Tories are trying to spin it. The reality could scarcely be different – here are the groups of people the Tories are now officially classifying as undeserving:

  • Two married teachers bringing up a child.
  • A co-habiting couple who have lived together for years but not married.
  • People whose partners have abandoned them and their children.
  • A widow whose husband has died in Afghanistan.

But perhaps I’m being unfair … after all the Tories will reward some people at the expense of those clearly undeserving groups:

  • Those happily married for 50 years.
  • Over a million people in Britain who have separated but are still legally married.
  • Somebody who abandons their partner and children and then remarries.

The Tories’ feeble defence of their Edwardian tax-war on groups in society they regard as unworthy is that it their £150 a year will help solve the much-talked about ‘Broken Britain’ – so what will the Tory policy do for those living in poverty?

  • Less than one in seven of the children living in poverty in the UK will see any benefit whether their parents marry or not. Just 14% of children in poverty live in coupled families where just one parent works full time.
  • It will be no help to the 232,000 children living in poverty with one parent who juggles work with caring for them.
  • It will be of no help to the 29,000 children who live in poverty with both parents who both work full time.

Nick Clegg delivered the perfect liberal response:

The proposal from the Conservatives for tax breaks for marriage are patronising drivel that belong in the Edwardian age. David Cameron clearly has no idea about modern life. Every family is different, and instead of creating rigid rules or special policies that help some families but not others, we need a new approach from government: one that is flexible and doesn’t dictate to families how they should live.”

(Hat-tip for the Tory poster: Alex Wilcock via

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This entry was posted in General Election.


  • Simon Titley 10th Apr '10 - 12:01pm

    Will £150 a year persuade people to marry? The average cost of a wedding in the UK is about £20,000. Stay married for at least 134 years and you’ll be quids in.

  • You’re obviously clutching at straws with those examples: two married teachers have a high income anyway; the war widow deserves a state benefit separate and greater than this tax break; and a single parent with children is entitled to maintenance from their estranged partner.

    As for Alix’s argument about disadvantaging cohabiting couples prospecting for marriage, when (and if) they get married they’ll be entitled to the tax break and by his argument their marriage will last longer, so over their life time they’ll still be better off for it.

  • I’ve looked into the original study that produced that statistic (Benson, H., 2006, The conflation of marriage and cohabitation in government statistics – a denial of difference rendered untenable by an analysis of outcomes, Bristol Community Family Trust), and they draw the same conclusion as you that its couples with a higher level of commitment will be the ones that get married.

    If this was an engineering problem I’d say that merely encouraging a higher level of marriage would probably result in more divorces. For a more reliable method of increasing the number of children to be raised in stable relationships you should discourage unmarried couples from having children. This would increase marriages among the number of couples wanting children and by making these ‘scary’ decisions arrive at once it would have the potential to ‘weed out’ weaker relationships before any children were produced.

    Whether we want our government to show this level of pragmatism is another issue entirely.

  • I could not help but enjoy the irony of the advert advertising Ukrainian Brides in a comment section largely decrying the idea of promoting marriage. Anyone for an immigration debate whilst we are about it?

  • Cllr Patrick Smith 11th Apr '10 - 10:37am

    It is correct to denounce the small allowance of this Tory £150 marriage bribe that would have have been right for family life in 1910 but we all require a more flexible approach to family life in 2010.

    The Liberal Democrats message is to give the most least off hard working 4 million families a tax refund of £700 in the pocket on the first earned £10K.

    It is infinitely fairer to provide each family with an average extra £700 tax return then to merely encourage marriage lines.

    Vince Cable as the next Chancellor would also help address the poverty of children who will undoubtedly benefit from the the extra earned income their parents will get as a result of L/D economic policy.

    Widows including war widows are losers and spouses who remarry are winners in the Tory marriage stakes.

    Poorer families who deserve equal and flexible fairness under tax will all lose out under Cameron`s proposals.

  • What about single people, who would like to marry, but for one reason or another haven’t found anybody? Why do the Tories want to punish them even more? Isn’t it enough, that they suffer from loneliness?

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