The Sketch: Two tribes go to war over importance of paternity

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The Independent Online

The Embryology Bill threw up an amendment legislating for a need for fathers. It's a proposition many of us react to warmly, but for some particular reason we end up in a corner with small-state, pro-life, Eurosceptic, voucher-fiends complaining about political correctness (it's gone mad, you know). I rub along pretty well with them, obviously, but I don't know why these attitudes draw people together in this way. It's politics.

The other side, with equal and opposite vigour, scoffs at the nuclear family, supports comprehensive education, the multiplication of human rights, and says "unlicensed, unregulated sperm" without facial revulsion. They're two ethnic camps looking for a scrap.

And they had to look quite hard to find one because the amendment turned out to be a veryinsubstantial thing. Its sponsors pointed out that it actually didn't do anything at all. How inoffensive could that be?

But the Government didn't like the smell of it. It sensed all sorts of modern hate crimes. Misogyny. Discrimination. Tax cuts, probably.

Iain Duncan Smith made the case. Families need fathers. So, if single mothers wanted IVF they would have to "take account" of the child's need for a father. We, who are wise to this, know that might be as little as signing a form asserting that account has been taken.

Labour's Geraldine Smith couldn't understand. It was no more than common sense that, generally, children did better with a father.

Geraldine's proposition stoked up the Islington MP, Emily Thornberry. With implacable calm she told us that people who talked about "common sense" were narrow and prejudiced. She also read out a fact sheet from a hospital proving discrimination against gay couples wanting insemination.

Amusingly, the Liberal Democrat John Hemming printed off a page from the same website proving the opposite. Ms Thornberry's case was popped, but her calm intensified. I was comforted by looking at her majority (484). And two more years to enjoy it all!