Magazine article The Spectator

Fetish for Fatherhood

Magazine article The Spectator

Fetish for Fatherhood

Article excerpt

It is now a week since Alan Milburn seriously inconvenienced his patron, Tony Blair, and threw the reshuffle into chaos by announcing that he was quitting the Cabinet to spend more time with his children. In the interval, the entire resources of Fleet Street have been deployed to uncover the truth behind this extraordinary move. Spend more time with his children! That was what Norman Fowler said when he left the Home Office, when he really ended up spending more time with a lucrative series of directorships. What on earth, we have asked ourselves, can have actuated the quiffed and plausible Milburn, a man until last week talked of as a successor to Mr Blair?

It has been suggested that he was peeved at being passed over for some other job, or that he was fed up with knocking his head against the obstructionism of Gordon Brown. Attempts have been made to infer some sexual scandal. But, as the days pass, the political world finds itself staring at the possibility that his words must be taken at their face value. The clearer it becomes that he has genuinely decided to forswear the Cabinet to 'watch his children grow up', the louder the applause has grown; from an initial incredulous ripple to a steady hymn of praise on all sides of politics. That is because, in the modern pantheon, there is no shrine more venerated than that of loving paternity. To be a downshifter, a house-husband, a man who is not too proud to stay at home and look after the little ones - that takes real manliness. Or so we are incessantly informed.

It is an article of faith in the modern Labour party, and an objective of legislation not contested by the Opposition, that all men should now have mandatory paid paternity leave. Across the land, men are now being all but forced to hang around the house, postpartum, not just for days but for weeks, when the baby is frankly too young to comprehend or benefit from their presence. Most men are likely to develop cabin fever, cooped up as they become in this world of bawling, and scented nappy sacks. And while the modern liberal mind takes delight in the notion of a father who sticks with the kiddies, it extols, conversely, the wife who goes out to work. Many of Gordon Brown's measures are directed at women, and in particular at chivvying them out of the household and into the workplace.

Columnist after columnist has therefore stood up to doff his (or usually her) cap to Mr Milburn, as an example to us all: a man who sees that his job is not everything. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.