Darling, it’s a tax break! Let’s get married!

This is sure to please the true blue backbenchers - but what about everyone else?
  • @MsEllenEJones

Some of the most obnoxious people I know are married. Married people have committed murder, acts of terrorism and even a few genocides. They can’t all be bad, but it does seem odd that a government in the midst of recession would choose this group in particular to reward with a tax break, as promised by David Cameron over the weekend.

Still, it’s the wedding season, love is in the air and if you promise me there’s a free bar, I’m willing to put doubt aside temporarily. Let’s assume, as the Conservative Party does, that: a) marital status is a reliable indicator of an individual’s value to society; b) couples getting and staying married is an unambiguous public good; and c) happy families are directly attributable to married parents, as opposed to all the other socio-economic factors. Even so, can lasting human affection really be bought so cheaply?

The scheme, which allows non-working spouses to transfer part of their tax-free allowance to their partners, will cost the state around £550m and amount to an annual rebate of only £150 per couple. Since, according to a recent study, the average British wedding now costs £18,244, Mr and Mrs Average will have to stick it out for an impressive 121 years to make their money back. But do check my workings – as a child of divorce, I understand that both my character and my arithmetic are necessarily dubious. Again, blame my broken home if you will, but I was also confused as to how the same Government which announced the need for £11.5bn cuts to public services just last week could find a spare half a billion to fund a tax cut by the following Monday?

While this measure will do next to nothing for Britain’s truly needy families, and is unlikely to make even a dent in the divorce rates, there is one group it will undoubtedly benefit: comparatively wealthy, more socially conservative voters – in other words, those most likely to vote Tory in 2015. Here is a blessed union between electoral strategy and true-blue values. What political expediency has joined together, let no man put asunder

Sadly, the announcement comes too late for Caroline Dinenage, Tory MP for Gosport, and Tory minister Mark Lancaster. According to gossip, the couple got it together after Dinenage left her husband. Lancaster already reportedly had a failed marriage behind him when he left his new partner and four-month-old daughter. Yet another different relationship then broke down before he took up with Dinenage. Absolutely none of our business, of course, but it does demonstrate who really wins whenever Government starts legislating on love lives. That’s you, fans of scurrilous tittle-tattle; your lowbrow hobby has just attained the status of legitimate policy debate.