Have You the Guts to Fight for the Family; as the Divorce Bill Moves to the Commons Paul Johnson Throws Down a Challenege to the Labour Leader

Daily Mail (London), March 12, 1996 | Go to article overview

Have You the Guts to Fight for the Family; as the Divorce Bill Moves to the Commons Paul Johnson Throws Down a Challenege to the Labour Leader


Byline: PAUL JOHNSON

Dear Tony,

SINCE you became leader of the Labour Party it has been your aim to capture the moral high ground of politics and hold it tenaciously for Labour.

It has also been your aim to show that Labour is not merely fit to govern, but infinitely more so than the present administration: that your team is single-minded, professional, clear, coherent and efficient, where John Major's Cabinet is divided, amateurish, confused, slapdash and incompetent.

You now have a brilliant opportunity to achieve both these ambitions at a stroke by enabling Parliament to destroy the government's easy divorce Bill.

On the first point - seizing the moral high ground - there can be no argument. This is an immoral Bill - immoral not so much in its intentions as in its certain consequences.

Oh yes, we all know that it is supposed to be a high-minded Bill. It impudently calls itself the Family Law Bill, and its ostensible and much-proclaimed purpose is to strengthen the family by ironing out some of the anomalies in our present system by clarifying the law and eliminating complex legal processes.

The Bill is covered in a veneer of respectability because it is championed by the Lord Chancellor, one of those austere and gritty Scottish Christians from an obscure Calvinistic Bible-thumping sect, who appears the epitome of upstanding self-righteousness and gloomy religiosity.

In fact, there is nothing Christian about the Bill. It is the very negation of Christianity, because it is a frontal assault on the central pillar of Christian life, the family.

The family is both the most valuable and the most endangered institution in Britain today. Whatever its supporters may claim, the cumulative effect of the Bill will be to destroy millions of families by making divorce quick, easy and cheap.

The legal and philosophical principle underlying the Bill is the No-Fault Divorce. This is the assumption, profoundly immoral in its implications, that marriages break down not because one of the parties is cruel or adulterous or selfish or violent - but because it is of the nature of marriages to break down.

No sin, it is argued, need be committed: it is a fact of life that marriage is a precarious arrangement, and if it begins to fall to bits, through no one's fault, the machinery of demolition should be brought along instantly to clear things up so everyone can start again.

The No-Fault Divorce is perhaps the most dangerous enemy Christian marriage has faced in the whole of its 2,000-year existence. The American evidence is absolutely conclusive: wherever No-Fault Divorce has been introduced, the number of divorces has increased inexorably.

Britain is already way ahead of the rest of Europe in the marriage-breakdown league. The Lord Chancellor's Bill, if made law, will put us right alongside the Americans in treating marriage as a temporary arrangement for which the law provides an instant, bargain-basement opt-out.

Strictly speaking, it ought to be called the Family Demolition Bill.

Because that is what this lamentable piece of legislation is about.

So why is the Labour Party, under your leadership, supporting it? It makes no moral or logical sense. You are yourself an ardent Anglican. Your wife Cheri is a devoted Roman Catholic. You are both, so far as I can see, exemplary parents, prepared to brush aside Labour's ancient doctrinaire shibboleths in securing for your children the best education. …

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