Belfast Telegraph

Concept of marriage is badly in need of a rebrand

By Janet Street Porter

Is marriage more appealing if you're posh? According to Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, the UK now has a "marriage gap". For centuries, if you planned on having kids, no matter what you earned, you made it legal. Back in 1964, more than 90% of all children in the UK were born within marriage (the same as a century earlier). Now it's less than half. In 2014, little has changed for the rich: nine out of 10 new parents in the top income bracket are married, but if you earn the minimum wage, it's about half.

Marriage is polarising. Rich people are twice as likely to get married now compared with 15 years ago, whereas the less you earn, the less likely you are to marry. A chap from the Centre for Social Justice reckons the cost of weddings puts people off and blamed a benefits system which doesn't reward married couples sufficiently.

Many people don't marry because in the Sixties and Seventies, their parents' generation thought it wasn't necessary, that freedom of choice was paramount.

Somehow feminism, the right to have multiple sexual partners, along with the cult of Me, eroded the notion of sticking with one person through thick and thin.

I am a prime example - a serial monogamist. When we got bored in a relationship, we moved on. Our lives are all about us and sod everyone else. Consequently, baby boomers' offspring have had few role models promoting the advantages of marriage. The upper-middle classes get married because they are concerned with inheritance: they want to ensure their kids go to the right schools, get good jobs and have somewhere to live. It's all part of social acceptance.

Now, marriage desperately needs rebranding. If fewer than one in 10 posh people split up before their child is five, compared with a third of all unmarried couples, the balance needs to be addressed. Surely it's good for most kids to grow up in stable surroundings. Few politicians defend marriage, which shows they are just as self-centred as the baby boomers. The inventor of the Pill says that in the future sex will be purely recreational, and we'll reproduce using laboratory techniques such as IVF.

So will marriage end up like linen sheets, steam trains and leaf tea - something only snobs aspire to?

The problem with the much-trumpeted film about Alan Turing's key role in winning the Second World War, The Imitation Game, is not the acting, but the mind-numbing banality of the script. It's modern history for Famous Five fans, as summed up by a Manchester copper's retort after Turing's arrest: "He's a poof, not a spy!" Turing and his gang of helpers seem like golly-gosh characters from 1960s children's telly.

I went to a screening in the fabulous Imax cinema at the Science Museum, a fitting location. Turing's family were present and I wondered what they thought of this shallow portrayal of a tortured genius. Benedict Cumberbatch deserves accolades, but the film lacks any intellectual depth - the BBC's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or its original House of Cards, were far meatier.

Hopefully, another director will give Turing the memorial he richly deserves.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph