Party for the single minded

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Labour's claim to be the party of family values was beginning to wear thin yesterday as it emerged that its new crop of parliamentary candidates is less likely to be married or to have children than existing MPs.

As the Prime Minister made a bid to win back the family vote for the Tories, an analysis of Labour's likely MPs after the election showed that marriage and children were not at the top of their list of priorities.

If Labour wins the election with a working majority, less than two-thirds of its new male MPs will be married, compared with more than three-quarters at present. However, Labour men are still more likely to be married than the rest of the adult population, where the proportion is six out of 10.

Labour women, on the other hand, are far less likely to be married. Only half the party's female MPs are currently married. Only a quarter of existing women MPs and a fifth of female candidates are married with children.

Very few of the new candidates, either male or female, admitted to being divorced or separated although about a quarter did not fill in the family section of the questionnaire on which the New Labour Guide is based. While 8 per cent of male Labour MPs and 19 per cent of female MPs are divorced, only 2 per cent of men and 5 per cent of women candidates were willing to reveal this information.

The guide, compiled by DPR publishing, was published as the Prime Minister launched a new offensive on family values. In the foreword to a book of his 1996 speeches entitled Our Nation's Future, John Major says the family, as well as the nation, is essential to every individual's security.

In an attempt to put distance between the Tories and Labour, he attacked "the incursions of the faceless state" into relations between parents and their children, and said families should be given more freedom to make their own decisions.