What's so wrong with marriage?

I would like to see it rebranded, because children whose parents live together may suffer when relationships break down


Marriage has never been less popular – new figures show that within three years the number of children born to unmarried mums will be in the majority, if current trends continue. In 2012, the figure stood at 47.5 per cent, a huge rise from 25 per cent in 1988. I would like to see marriage rebranded, because children whose parents live together may suffer when relationships break down.

There seems to be so much ignorance as to what rights unmarried couples have – the answer is very few. As marriage declines in popularity, the courts see a huge increase in fractious disputes about division of property, maintenance, and access to children. These don't vanish if you divorce, but there is a framework to resolve disputes, especially where children are concerned. I'm fascinated why so many modern heterosexual couples shun formalising their relationship.

Is it because they are waiting to see if anyone better comes along? Or is it because they see marriage as middle class, out of fashion, irrelevant? Is it because they are worried they can't afford a memorable party? What's so hard about making a simple commitment to another person? Are we so self-obsessed that every decision we take is "all about me"? It's become commonplace to talk about being on "a journey", but it usually seems to involve a route we choose to express our individuality, not the needs of others. The Centre for Social Justice says that children whose parents are married have a better chance of getting on in life, will achieve more at school and have fewer mental health problems and less substance abuse – but that's not going to sell marriage to left-wing couples who believe in freedom of expression.

The Labour Party has been strangely reticent on this score, and Ed Miliband only married after he had been elected leader and had kids – it was low-key, almost as if he didn't want to offend potential voters. How can we have got to this stage, where the only people who stick up for marriage are Tories or the Church of England – and they've got a vested interest, haven't they? David Cameron is a bit mealy-mouthed on the subject, dragging his feet on tax breaks for married couples like a reluctant bridegroom. Marriage urgently needs a make-over.

Delicate flowers of TV comedy

Successful stand-up comedians such as Michael McIntyre, John Bishop and Peter Kay perform to audiences of tens of thousands, becoming millionaires in the process. But when it comes to appearing on television in a new comedy series, these chaps come over all sensitive. How weird, when they've spent months on tour dealing with drunken hecklers. The BBC's head of comedy, Shane Allen, says that negative reaction on social media and from TV critics to The Wright Way written by Ben Elton has made other comics nervous about how their work will be received.

Kay has decided his new six-part sitcom, Car Share, will debut on iPlayer before being transmitted on BBC1, in an attempt to build up positive feedback. This makes a mockery of the idea of paying for a telly licence, doesn't it? I thought that these guys could cope with the bear pit of Twitter, but it seems not.

Goldfinger's grim legacy

Metro Central Heights, four uncompromising concrete office blocks in London's Elephant and Castle, designed by Erno Goldfinger in 1959 for the ministry of health, have been "saved" for posterity after being listed by English Heritage.

Another of Goldfinger's controversial buildings, the 31-storey Trellick Tower in north Kensington, was listed in 1998, in spite of huge unpopularity with council tenants. Since then, it's been renovated, security has improved and now a top-floor flat is on the market for £375,000. For a city to regenerate itself and reflect contemporary society, we should save only the very best buildings, and the historically important. English Heritage has already listed far too many examples of Brutalist architecture: Centre Point, the National Theatre and lots of the South Bank.

The office blocks at Elephant and Castle have been turned into flats – which means they don't even fulfil their original function. They are nothing special. So-called "heritage tourism" is booming in the UK, as the number of visitors to historic sites soars, but I suspect that only architects will be taking the Tube to inspect these grim tower blocks.

It's a Massive disappointment

Massive Attack were the soundtrack to a special period in my life, and their "Unfinished Symphony" of 1991 one of my top songs of all time. I loved the minimalist video directed by Baillie Walsh – one continuous shot of the singer Shara Nelson walking down a street in Los Angeles. At the Manchester Festival the other week, the group teamed up with film-maker Adam Curtis – a rare collaboration in a disused railway station, with images projected on 11 screens.

This immersive experience with footage of Chernobyl and various disasters of the past half century, streaming to a pounding bass, was accompanied by a patronising commentary which sounded pathetically agit-prop. It was like being banged over the head with a placard. I admire Curtis's TV work, but in this setting he misjudged his tone. The message – that we've lost interest in true social and political change – got lost. Walsh's video seems so elegant in comparison.

Judy would be LTA smash

Hurrah for Judy Murray, the mum who never gave up on her son, a woman who has been reviled and described as "pushy" and "domineering", when all she wanted for her son was to play the best he could. Andy's victory should be an opportunity for British tennis to revitalise the sport, to cast off the middle-class image that has bedevilled it for decades.

The Lawn Tennis Association has a massive budget – nearly £38m in 2012; it has been searching in vain for a new chief executive since March. The incumbent, Roger Draper, is stepping down, having pocketed a whopping £640,000 last year. Apart from Murray, the next British man is ranked 252 in the world and we only have two women in the top 100. The LTA bleats about how "cheap" the sport is – but although there are 20,000 courts in the UK, only 1,500 are free – a shocking statistic.

We need to get kids playing tennis at primary school. The best person to run the LTA (although she says she's not well suited to it) would be Judy Murray, who coached her son from the age of 10, scrimped and saved for him to go to a tennis academy in Spain, and who has devoted herself tirelessly to promoting the sport.

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