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Fine words are not enough

Are you one of the 58% who, according to a recent poll, consider the Liberal Democrats irrelevant? Only 8% said they will vote Lib Dem next May, leaving the party in fourth place.

In the past Lib Dems were a party of protest but now they are a party of government subject to the cynicism attached to established parties. This was the backdrop to Nick Clegg’s speech. He had to revive party morale and persuade us we should vote for them.

Predictably he tried to rubbish the other parties but come next May he may need to work with one of them in another coalition. He claimed his party stood for a different type of politics.  They want a level playing field so all can benefit from the recovery but Miliband said that. They want a fairer society that creates opportunities for everyone but Cameron said that.

He was on stronger ground with commitments to creating a sustainable environment, reducing carbon from electricity generation, and boosting renewable energy sources. Lib Dems would borrow less than Labour and cut spending less than the Conservatives. They would expand child care provision and block threats to civil liberties.

The conference season is over. We can pray that all our politicians work for the common good and that their policies are increasingly shaped by Godly values. One area where this is desperately needed is tackling the alarming statistics of family breakdown.

The UK has one of the highest rates of family breakdown in the western world with fewer than 69% of children living with both parents. 45% of children will experience their parents breaking-up before their 16th birthday. Family breakdown costs taxpayers £44billion per year but none of the party conferences made this a headline issue. Christian Guy of the Centre for Social Justice says “timid politicians were becoming numb to Britain’s sky-high family breakdown rates”.

There are many reasons for family breakdown. The declining popularity of marriage and the commitment it expresses is one. Debt and money worries don’t help. Neither do long hours working that leave insufficient time for family. Distance from grandparents and the support they can give is another. Underlying them all is the consumerist culture that says if a relationship is not satisfying it is OK to move on.

There are policies the parties could consider not only to reduce the costs of breakdown but also to save children from its traumatic effects on them. Helping couples prepare for sustainable relationships and to work through crises could stem the tide of breakdown. So too could access to affordable homes close to extended family support and tax and benefit reforms that make working long hours less necessary, leaving more time for family life.

I hope we all pray for our families and make time for our children and grandchildren if we have reached that stage of life. We should also pray for policy makers to make family stability a high priority. That would reduce public expenditure and spare those involved from the misery of family breakdown.

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