Lorely Burt’s Conservative opponent lectures her on sexism

It all started with an innocent tweet from Solihull MP Lorely Burt:

It’s all about this story in which Steve Webb plans to allow payment habits, good or bad, of absent parents who pay maintenance for their children. If an absent parent doesn’t pay their maintenance, then this information, passed on to credit reference agencies, could stop them getting credit or a mortgage You shouldn’t require an incentive like that to actually provide for your children, but, unfortunately, some people do.

Lorely’s use of the term “deadbeat Dads” caused controversy. Every time a complaint is raised about any issue be it child maintenance, sexual harassment or domestic violence, and anyone tries to mention the women affected, you will always find some men doing a “but what about the men” thing. It’s actually quite important to understanding how our society works and how stacked against women our structures are, to appreciate that women are most often on the receiving end of this sort of poor behaviour. To try to portray it as any other way means that you think our society is a lot more equal than it actually is.

Lorely’s Conservative opponent Julian Knight went on one of these “what about the men” crusades.

Lorely put him in his place, though:

We need to see society as it actually is, with 92% of single parents being women, according to Gingerbread.

Should you be so annoyed at Julian Knight’s clear lack of understanding of how society works and supportive of Lorely’s stance, this site will tell you all you need to know about how you can help her campaign to hold her seat in May.

And, no, this does not mean I hate all men. Nor does it mean that I think that all men who end a relationship treat their responsibilities towards their children lightly.  If the truth be known, I don’t really hate anybody. I generally find life is too short for that sort of thing. But if we want to change our society for the better, we need to see it as it actually is.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • xxx

    Love you.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 5th Nov '14 - 9:23pm


  • Jerry Lonsdale 5th Nov '14 - 11:06pm

    Erm Hello, lets just set the point in motion, the criticism of the this whole issue by me was the use of the term “Deadbeat Dads” I found that quite absurd when in 2014 there is no place for the use of that sort of terminology, the intention from me was simply highlighting that the linked news article on the BBC said nothing in the term of dead beat dad,

    I was simply shocked that it would come from Lorely herself when I know just what she stands up for, the CSA have been criticised over many years that it can also be their own failings that finances are not passed on to the right parent in the right time and I do know of many innocent parents including dads have been wrongly criticised for not making payments when in fact they had and were not at fault, all this commotion about making parents receive negative credit reports is not the best solution to fix this problem nor is singling out one set of parents, why should the innocent parents face a negative credit score when the problem maybe beyond their control.

    Being one who spends a monumental amount of time in and out of the Family Courts I feel that maybe the truth is not being given out by the Media and almost certainly the Daily Mail, they use the term “Feckless”, I would invite any person to see the amount of times Dads and Mothers are clogging up the family courts in order to obtain contact with their children, despite those who pay without fail and stand up for their duties as a parent, the drive to separate the family unit continues at an alarming pace.

    I do agree that there are some parents who wash their hands of any responsibility towards their children, mothers and fathers, we see grandparents suffering more as well when the family unit breaks down, no support or help is given to them when they loose all the ability to see their grand children.

    I do feel there is something in the middle of the whole Government press release this morning that started off this whole debacle, does it deserve the use of derogatory terms against those who may simply not be at fault or do we need to look deeper in addressing the real issues, those that cause untoward damage to children and families on a daily basis, those are the points we should be addressing.

    How many people are aware now that the CSA now charge parents for the use of their service, look at the campaign by the charity Gingerbread, talk with people like that and ask them what they think of the use of derogatory terms like Dead Bead Dads,


    Has anyone seen the debate about the “Modern Family” statue outside Birmingham’s new Library, its caused outrage from all sides, we need to be tackling the breakdowns of the “Family” no matter of its foundations,

    Come on folks, we have major issues coming up that need a lot of our attention, this issue is on a list of many, we will face a triad of these sorts of problems in the months to come

  • If someone – male or female – is failing to make their maintenence payments wouldn’t it be easier to stop it from their wages. Surely a system could be put in place that gives the CSA the power to do this. As for Lorely Burt using the term “deadbeat dads”, it’s the sort of attention seeking quote you would normally expect from a right wing Tory. She’s normally better than that.

  • The term was sloppy language and (I’m sorry to say) sounded like a Tory soundbite. As Stephen mentions, such terms are nearly always counter to achieving the stated aim as they alienate those in the minority unfairly characterised and give succor to those looking to highlight holes in perfectly good policies. It was sloppy language, say it is mostly men that avoid payment by all means but “deadbeat dads” leave that stuff to Cameron, Millibland and Farage..

    I also think her response was pretty poor, I’m not sure he did try and explain casual sexism rather accused her of it. Why do our politicians have such an aversion to admitting they were wrong even where it is in language and not the point in question?

    The fact a man pointed it out was irrelevant, unless of course sexism can only be highlighted by women. If it was a generalisation by a Tory or Labour politician that affected women or a minority group we probably would call it casual xxxx. For example, we do object to UKIP and Tories using terms such as scrounging immigrants and benefit tourists when only a small percentage of immigrants are here without intending to be productive. The shambles of the CSA with so many cases being stuck in the system or wrongly calculated means it is almost impossible to work out how many people are willfully withholding fairly assessed payments.

  • My main concern with this policy isn’t the moral implications, it’s the use of credit rating agencies, who desperately need reform. Apparently one can’t sue credit rating agencies if they’ve taken “reasonable care” and make a mistake that prevents you getting credit, as actually responsibility lies with the individual to make sure their data is correct.


    What I find astonishing about this is that the CRAs make profit from our data, yet it appears we are responsible for making sure their systems are up to date – which we cannot control. I find that totally bizarre.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 6th Nov '14 - 11:28am

    Simon, it’s not sexism to point out that the majority of perpetrators of a particular kind of behaviour are men and that it should not be acceptable for them to behave like that. I am more concerned about sexism towards women because it actually limits their life and work opportunities and in some cases can subject them to appalling abuse. Men’s choices might be affected by the patriarchal nature of our society, but not in such an invidious way as happens with women.

  • We’re agreed the phrase was inappropriate due to the implication that the dads in question are “deadbeat” when it might not be their fault. We’re not agreed that it was sexist since 92% of cases involve a man.

  • David Evans 6th Nov '14 - 11:53am

    I for one don’t have a particular problem with the expression “deadbeat dads.” Some dads are deadbeat, and doubtless some mums are too. It puts an image in people’s minds that this is a problem that needs dealing with and a Lib Dem has dealt with it. Pontificating over the view that in 2014 there is no place for the use of that sort of terminology, the word doesn’t enrich the debate or isn’t helpful (helpful to who or what?) really is a case of allowing middle class angst get in the way of getting a clear message across. If we complain it is the sort of expression used by the right, we have to answer the question “Is that why they are so successful in getting their message over and we are not?” Communicating clearly and concisely in terms people understand is vital for any party.

    You need a word to make it clear that it’s not all dads, but just some and “dads who don’t pay their child maintenance” is rather long for a tweet. Deadbeat makes a point, gets attention and sums up a problem. I think we all have to think how we would have worded it in a tweet. Lorely made her decision and got her message out. So answers please in 140 characters or less please.

  • matt (Bristol) 6th Nov '14 - 12:12pm

    140 characters? Right…

    “Deadbeat dads” is an abrasive red rag to bulls – not necessarily sexist. I agree with Stephen and Louise, if that’s not self-contradictory.

  • I’m going to repeat comments I’ve made elsewhere here:

    I don’t think it’s wrong to use terminology like ‘deadbeat dads’ when we are describing a genuine social issue. The fact is there are a worrying number of male parental figures that are having mostly negative interaction with their offspring and it’s about time people with the power to do something about it started to address it. Of course it can happen the other way round, but the other way round is a minority and not as endemic to count as real problem for society. I’m glad to see that Lib Dems in government are actually doing things to try and tackle the culture and practises that have allowed this to become a problem, such as introducing shared parental leave, removing the expectation that mothers have to be the main carers for very young children and allowing fathers the chance to spend that valuable bonding time with their newborns.

    On the issue of child maintenance, this of course is a welcome step, but I think it will only impact on a very small amount of cases and won’t actually tackle the majority of the deliberately negligent parents. I’m speaking as a parent with residence with 2 fathers both playing the system and the CSA rendered impotent in trying to collect any payments. Unfortunately I can’t imagine a negative credit rating bothering either of them very much and I have to say I’d hazard a guess that may be the case for a good number in the same position as me.

  • Stephen Hesketh 6th Nov '14 - 1:35pm

    As some have observed probably not up to Lorely Burt’s usual standard but in Googling to find out what the term actually meant I came across this in yesterday’s Herald:


    This may be why Lorely used it. Personally I don’t approve and find it just another of those annoying terms ‘cool US-visiting press and broadcast media types’ inflict upon us on a regular basis.

    Stephen Tall 6th Nov ’14 – 8:33am is right about the use of such terms.

    I also think that Louise Ankers post of 6th Nov ’14 – 11:25am is very pertinent and, if we don’t have one already, believe we should develop a policy in this area.

  • David Evans 6th Nov '14 - 3:15pm

    Well done Matt. Actually what I was referring to was redo Lorely’s original tweet in 140 characters, but a good one nonetheless.

  • “there are a worrying number of male parental figures that are having mostly negative interaction with their offspring […] Of course it can happen the other way round, but the other way round is a minority”

    I think 140 characters is not helpful but, I’m not sure even slightly longer text based arguments are helping people explain what they mean either.

  • I am sorry, but as the son of one who could be called a ‘deadbeat’ dad, I find this horrific – and have lost all support for any who used it, or support the use of it,

    The family structure and what happens in those individuals families is incredibly complex, with no two stories being the same. This sort of rhetoric is all part of the politics of blame and hate – and does very little to solve the problem, but can make it worse by pushing forward a stereotype and narrative that only fuels division and ignores the underlying problems in both society and the system that enables failure/hinders progress.

    Lorly says that because of her role, she must not know nothing (sorry for double negative, but hard to translate sarcasm). Well, not knowing nothing seems in this case to be little better than nothing – and I do not wish for this person to continue their role because someone who has an actual understanding of the problems here would know this rhetoric is just populism.

  • @Stephen Hesketh I think we should definitely develop policy on reform of the CRAs – you can contact me through my blog if interested in helping? I’ve been looking into it all year (can be difficult to get your head round so a fair amount of research required and hope to work it up into a policy paper soon

  • Sorry meant to say click on my name and it will take you to my blog. My email address is at the top

  • Martin Land 7th Nov '14 - 5:51pm

    @ Simon.

    Well said; there is an incredible amount of sexism in-built into the system where the presumption always appears to be that the mother is the better parent and the husband is a walking ATM which is why 92% of single parents are mothers. Some men try to walk away after this experience. It’s wrong, I believe – we should all accept our responsibilities – but on a human level it’s understandable.

  • I’m not sure some people are being as clear as they would be in person. Some views I think can be misinterpreted on this topic.

    Simon Oliver

    “As long as men are only regarded as elusive cash tills with no other role to play in the upbringing of children, we will increasingly refuse the role of cash till as well.”

    I don’t think an unfairness (real or perceived) can justify denying children the financial support they require.

    That said as often with these things when statistics are quoted I think people read more in to them than is actually possible. The 92% of single being women for example. There are several interpretations none of which can be safely made without more detail.

  • Some people on this thread are using terminology incorrectly.

    ‘Sexism’ = power + prejudice

    Women cannot be sexist to men because they do not hold power; society is not structured for their benefit. ‘Sexism’ has a technical meaning, and must meet *both* criteria. The word we should be using instead is ‘prejudice.’

    This is a very good explanation: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/10/19/sexism-definition/

    (I am currently researching a PhD (broadly) in gender and international relations, so I’m not just some random person with the ability to Google. It is frustrating to hear people misusing words)

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Nov '14 - 5:11pm

    Natalie, your simplification of “women do not hold power, so they can’t be sexist” might make sense in some sort of Aristotelian logic experiment, but it explodes once it meets the electorate, so in order to break the cycle you need to learn to engage a sustainable majority of men and women in your cause.

    Your PhD might be interesting, but your opening statement hardly gives me the confidence that you give both sides a fair hearing.


  • Eddie Sammon 8th Nov '14 - 5:19pm

    In fact, Natalie, it is offensive to categorise men as one grouping and say society is structured for their benefit. It doesn’t matter if the person saying it is studying for a PhD, it’s still offensive and thankfully no PhD can tell me what I find offensive.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Nov '14 - 5:40pm

    If we have/aim for equal rights then how can it be structured for anyone’s benefit? The problem is too many feminists want more than equal rights and those that do are actually less likely to reduce inequality.

    I’m not interested in nitpicking about a tiny bit of positive or even negative discrimination here or there. We just need to get in the real world. Diverse teams are good.

    Women have played a big part in structuring gender roles and being complicit in them, so we need to get away from language that suggests they have just rolled over for overpowering men.

  • Natalie

    Unfortunately you are applying the definition addopted by those who work and research around gender studies to a situation where it is not the appropriate definition. Thanking from the link you posted:

    “feminists make a distinction between sexism and gender-based prejudice when the dictionary does not.”

    This is not part of the academic discourse of Gender Studdies this is a discussion by every day people therefore the dictionary deffinition would apply.

    I think any forther comment would drag use way off topic but when not in a confined setting the appropriate definition to use is the standard dictionary one.

  • The family courts are not bias against fathers that is just rubbish. I have been through the family courts and I will not stand by and listen to people make these claims that are not true.

    What is true is that the family courts have a lot of problems, I’ll come to that later. It was society that in general held the expectation that mothers make the better resident parent not the courts, the court rulings tend to reflect the feeling of society as it is the current mood in society that any new legislation gets based around, hence why in the 19th Century for example, the children were unquestioningly the property of the father and courts would have in most cases ruled against mothers. Legislation is and has been in place for a while ensuring a favour of mothers over fathers as resident parent does not happen without due cause.

    The problem with the family courts is that the child and their rights should be above all else, however currently the system doesn’t always allow for that to be the case. The withdrawal of legal aid in many cases is only going to add to this with CAFCASS (already struggling) going to be under even more pressure as people are having to represent themselves. Rights of either parent to see a child, whilst important, should not be exercised at detriment to the child’s well being, and frankly there are many cases now where due to a parents behaviour (and yes in the majority of cases it is the father) they are having a negative impact on a child’s well being but yet the courts still rule that the child has to have contact with them. I know of too many instances where the resident parent is having to force the child to go to contact when they don’t want to as they are either scared or don’t enjoy the time. Yes in some cases it may not even be the fault of the parent causing the problems, they are often a result of wider problems in society, but why should that child be subject to that just because otherwise people harp up accusing the system of being bias against those parents?

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