Dave Cameron really loves marriage. Not only does he love it, he thinks that we should love it too. In order to help us along with this, he’s going to pay us to do it. Let me find the relevant extract from his presentation of this policy in…the Mail? Oh sweet Jesus Christ.
“From April 2015, if neither of you are higher rate taxpayers, you will be able to transfer £1,000 of your tax-free allowance to your spouse. In effect, if you pay the basic rate of tax and your partner doesn’t use all of their personal allowance, you’ll be able to have some of it. Most couples who benefit will be £200 a year better off as a result.”
Have you got that? Free money! Who doesn’t want £200 a year? Who would rather NOT have £200 a year?
Where does this leave people who aren’t married? Well, I suppose we’re subsidising the people who are married. Hey, married people! Guess what! You’re all buying me drinks when this comes in!
This is the work of that peculiar Thatcherite school of thought that holds that there is no better way of persuading someone to do something than by paying them to do it. Well guess what: Thatcher was right. Money talks. Cameron, it seems, also has some pretty impressive powers of prediction, because he addressed this exact reading of his plan:
“…the charge will come up that we’re trying to bribe people to get married. Frankly this is a pretty depressing – and wrong-headed – view of human nature. People aren’t going to choose to get married for a few extra pounds each week.”
Errrr what? What’s the point of this policy, then? I thought it was to encourage people to choose to get married, by offering them a few extra pounds each week in return?
Actually, I think David Cameron has pulled a quiet piece of genius here. He’s not only pre-empted his detractors, he’s disputed their complaints so forcefully that he’s inadvertently attacked the very policy that he was trying to defend. Everyone in opposition will be so bamboozled by this tactic that they will probably never think to agree with him. I’m pretty sure he’s picked this up from the start of ‘Speed’.
David Cameron is hoping, presumably, that this will result in an increase in the rate of marriage. And I suspect that this hope will be fulfilled. But, as you might have gathered, I do have one or two problems with this.
The first is: if marriage is indeed so great, aren’t we devaluing it a little bit here? Now, while it won’t be fair to say that all of these extra brides and grooms will be motivated exclusively by money, it certainly will be fair to say that it will have played a part. Does that not detract from the significance of marriage, in some way? I’m sure it probably does. If that’s not too oxymoronic a turn of phrase.
If marriage makes you so happy, Dave, then surely it is its own reward? Married people are getting rewarded twice! Why not take the opposite approach? Why not tax marriage rather than subsidise it? Married people won’t mind, I’m sure. They’ll be too busy delighting in their newfound gift, and doubtless will feel so pleased with their newly signed document that they will happily stump up a few extra pounds in tax to alleviate the suffering of us miserable, non-married folk. It’s only fair, really. We had to sit there and mouth the words to ‘Oh Come all Ye Faithful’ or ‘Seasons in the Abyss’. Sure, we got a little bit of cake in return. But it wasn’t that much cake. And they did try to make us feel guilty after we bit the little sugar-bride’s head off in front of all the in-laws. I think we know who’s getting the raw deal, here.
What of the unhappily single people? Those mythical beasts that spend their days locked up in their rooms playing candy crush, and their nights cavorting in the centres of stone circles somewhere to the south of Bewdley. Those people who want to pull, but are simply incapable of doing so, for whatever reason? Are they supposed to pay for people to get married? What sort of insult is that?
And, moreover, what of the happily single people? The slags? Do they not deserve £200 a year? And, leaving the slags aside for a moment: What about the people that just…errr… don’t want to be in a relationship? The people who just aren’t interested in that sort of thing and certainly wouldn’t want the government involved if they were. What about those people?
According to Cameron, the world needs more people getting married, because it helps with the task of raising children. I do agree with Mr Cameron on this point, and the somewhat more fundamental point that society seems to have missed, namely that it’s probably a good idea that children, having been born, should be raised.
Here I should mention that I find children to be rather unpleasant, selfish little creatures, driven entirely by ID. God I feel sorry for the wretched parents. Every day I’m subjected to their lament: “Put that back, Little Jimmy. You’ve already had half a box of profiteroles and a jam roly-poly this morning. Please, Jimmy, no. Please, Jimmy, please. Please, please, please. Okay, just this once, but know that I CURSE THE DAY YOU CRAWLED FROM MY WOMB!”
Ahem. I can feel a digression brewing. Allow me to summarise: we as a nation aren’t very good at this. We have a sort of laizez-faire approach to raising children. It’s gotten us all into a right old societal pickle. I don’t know if any of you have been outside recently, but there’s something of a problem with the youth. They are all, for lack of a better term, feral. They spend their time roaming the streets, squawking and flinging handfuls of faeces at one another. I’m sure most of them never even went to Eton.
I just don’t think there’s much to this marriage-bribe idea, though. Could we not consider other options? I would propose, instead, we concentrate our efforts on research into the elusive longevity vaccine. Then we could subsidise, not married couples, but those brave souls willing to undergo voluntarily castration. After a few years this whole problem would then sort itself out.
Yes, like David Cameron, I am aware of a few of the criticisms, so let me follow his example and pre-empt them: this plan does hold a minor existential risk for the human race. But that possibility has a silver lining: if the human race were extinct, we would almost certainly not have to endure party conference season again!