I always knew that there was a good reason why I wasn't a Conservative, but if ever I have doubts, I'll look back over the past two days and find that reason engraved on my heart.
I've been married and, on the whole, it is an institution that I broadly favour. It is, however, just an institution when all is said and done. Yet my conservative friends want to bribe me into getting married as part of their quest to repair the 'broken society'. In many ways, it is the mistake that workaholics have made over the years to justify their absence, "if I can't be there to love you in person, I'll give you stuff in lieu...". Nothing strengthens a relationship like love, trust and good faith, and no matter how much money the Conservative Party aims to stuff into the mouths of married couples, without those things, a marriage is just a business arrangement.
I became a liberal because I appreciated the notion that people should be allowed to get on with their lives in the way that suits them, as long as, by their actions, they do not limit the rights of others to do likewise. That means forming family units in a way that suits them and that will endure, it means a role for the community in nurturing those who suffer from relationship failures. It does not mean trying to trying to handcuff two unhappy people to each other for the sake of the married couple's allowance, something that, as I recall, the Conservatives abolished.
Indeed, it really bothers me when Conservatives talk so airily about freeing the individual from the dead hand of the state, when what they really mean is freeing the individual to behave in a manner they approve of. That sort of freedom is not the concept that I recognise, am comfortable with, or am ever likely to support.
And yet I have to applaud our rivals in blue for their PR skills. Talking about repairing a 'broken society' sounds really good, the sort of thing that we would surely all applaud. However, as always in such matters, the devil is in the detail. There are hints that the handouts to married couples will need to be found somewhere, probably from cuts to single mothers and other second class citizens (from the Conservative perspective, at least), the very people who need most help and support from the state to drag themselves out of poverty.
I will never feel inadequate because my marriage failed. Yes, I have regrets, I'd be foolish to think any other way, but the notion that any future relationship I enter into will only be truly validated, and rewarded, if I exchange vows and sign a certificate in front of witnesses is an affront. Perhaps the Conservatives, instead of trying to turn the clock back to the supposedly halcyon days of the 1950's, should be trying rather harder to support families, regardless of their construction, rather than punish an undeserving minority.