Belfast Telegraph

Red Ed so yellow when it comes to defending marriage

Once, a marriage announcement was a reason for celebration; now, it's a cause of embarrassment. God forbid Ed Miliband's forthcoming nuptials should offend anyone and lose him a single vote.

Here's the deal: he's not bothering with a best man. There won't be a big party. In fact, the couple are not even going to stay the night at the nice hotel where they're having a small reception.

And any honeymoon (however modest) will probably be postponed. I doubt Justine will wear white. She probably won't buy a new dress, but do a bit of recycling.

In other words, it's going to be a low-key event, in complete contrast with the Royals.

So is this wedding a sign of the times? Mr Miliband claims that he proposed ages ago and hadn't got round to organising the formalities because he was "too busy".

He's not exactly handing out a ringing vote of confidence in the institution of marriage - in fact, his pathetic stance sums up our 'whatever' society. When asked if he thought marriage was a good idea, he told one interviewer: "It's up to everyone to do what they think is right." Talk about hedging your bets.

What's so wrong with saying, "I am proud to be getting married" and "I want my kids to grow up with a mum and dad. I think marriage is a good framework for raising families"?

Rest assured, those words will never pass Ed Miliband's lips. In modern society, saying you believe in marriage is more shocking than saying you've snacked on crack.

If David Cameron says (as he has on many occasions) that he thinks marriage is an important institution, it's all too predictable that Cleggie and Milibandroid would never dare to concur. You could say they're only reflecting public opinion - statistics suggest that marriage has never been more unpopular, and the average age for women tying the knot has risen steadily to 30, and for men, 32.

One theory is we've dumped marriage in favour of having fun. Why make sacrifices, or reduce your life-choices, to be with just one individual?

There's a bizarre idea that marriage means the end of the impromptu, enjoyable stage of your life, and the beginning of the dark, dreary years.

Spend your twenties out with your mates - drinking, shopping, working, putting yourself first - and sod monogamy. But look at the result: huge numbers of single mums, kids with no rules at home and parents who don't want the responsibility.

Is it reactionary of me to expect political leaders to offer some kind of role model to the people they are paid to represent?

Why can't Ed Miliband celebrate marriage, instead of treating it like another bullet-point to be ticked off on his carefully crafted political agenda?

Labour has always claimed to be the party that stands up for women, but its leaders seem weirdly reluctant to endorse marriage, the single act that makes women equal.

Most women with children would secretly prefer to be married: it gives them financial and emotional stability and ensures maintenance if they are dumped.

How we regard marriage is more complex than the statistics imply, however. Most of us still value marriage highly.

Miliband should grow up and endorse marriage. What's wrong with moral leadership?

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