Cruddas's plan to give fathers paid leave for antenatal classes deserves support

Rather than dismissing the idea as another burden on business, Conservatives should recognise it as an attempt to strengthen the family.

One of the main aims of Labour's policy review is to address issues that have long been neglected by both of the main parties: the lack of housebuilding, the mental health crisis and the prohibitive cost of social care. Another example is the disproportionate burden borne by women in family life.

In his speech to Civitas last night, Jon Cruddas, the party's policy review co-ordinator, noted: "More and more women are taking on the role of breadwinner. Families thrive when there is a partnership and teamwork amongst adult relations. But there is a deep feeling of unfairness amongst women at the burden they have to shoulder. Too many have a triple shift of paid work, looking after the children and caring for an older relative."

He added: "Amongst men there is the sense of being excluded from domestic life. We need a new conversation about families and their relationships  that is jointly owned by women and men.

"We need to value father's family role as highly as his working role, and women's working role as highly as her domestic one."

With this aim in mind, one idea he floated was the introduction of paid leave for prospective fathers to attend "antenatal sessions and hospital appointments during pregnancy". This, he said, was an example of how Labour would make greater use of a "'whole family' approach to public services which assumes, where it is safe and appropriate, that a child needs a relationship with both parents."

I expect some on the libertarian wing of the Conservatives will charge Cruddas with seeking to further burden businesses, but others in the party will rightly recognise it as an attempt to support the institution they revere most: the family. While the Tories plan to waste £600m on a symbolic tax break for marriage, Labour is advancing policies that would make a genuine difference to people's lives.

Cruddas's "Blue Labour" agenda is an attempt to re-engage the small-c conservative voters who deserted Labour between 1997 and 2010 and, in many cases, stopped voting at all. He said: "They care about their families and work hard for a better life. The ethic of work is deeply held because it is about self-respect and self-reliance. They are responsible and look after their neighbourhoods. But they don't feel they get back what they deserve. Labour should be their natural home. But in May 2010 they didn't think that we understood their lives. They turned their backs on us and we suffered one of our worst ever defeats. That means necessary reflection within our policy review."

It is a strategic repositioning that the Conservatives should be wary of dismissing.

Labour's policy review co-ordinator Jon Cruddas addressed the think-tank Civitas last night. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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“Brexit is based on racism”: Who is protesting outside the Supreme Court and what are they fighting for?

Movement for Justice is challenging the racist potential of Brexit, as the government appeals the High Court's Article 50 decision.

Protestors from the campaign group Movement for Justice are demonstrating outside the Supreme Court for the second day running. They are against the government triggering Article 50 without asking MPs, and are protesting against the Brexit vote in general. They plan to remain outside the Supreme Court for the duration of the case, as the government appeals the recent High Court ruling in favour of Parliament.

Their banners call to "STOP the scapgoating of immigrants", to "Build the movement against austerity & FOR equality", and to "Stop Brexit Fight Racism".

The group led Saturday’s march at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre, where a crowd of over 2,000 people stood against the government’s immigration policy, and the management of the centre, which has long been under fire for claims of abuse against detainees.  

Movement for Justice, and its 50 campaigners, were in the company yesterday of people from all walks of pro and anti-Brexit life, including the hangers-on from former Ukip leader Nigel Farage’s postponed march on the Supreme Court.

Antonia Bright, one of the campaign’s lead figures, says: “It is in the interests of our fight for freedom of movement that the Supreme Court blocks May’s attempt to rush through an anti-immigrant deal.”

This sentiment is echoed by campaigners on both sides of the referendum, many of whom believe that Parliament should be involved.

Alongside refuting the royal prerogative, the group criticises the Brexit vote in general. Bright says:

“The bottom line is that Brexit represents an anti-immigrant movement. It is based on racism, so regardless of how people intended their vote, it will still be a decision that is an attack on immigration.”

A crucial concern for the group is that the terms of the agreement will set a precedent for anti-immigrant policies that will heighten aggression against ethnic communities.

This concern isn’t entirely unfounded. The National Police Chief’s Council recorded a 58 per cent spike in hate crimes in the week following the referendum. Over the course of the month, this averaged as a 41 per cent increase, compared with the same time the following year.

The subtext of Bright's statement is not only a dissatisfaction with the result of the EU referendum, but the process of the vote itself. It voices a concern heard many times since the vote that a referendum is far too simple a process for a desicion of such momentous consequences. She also draws on the gaping hole between people's voting intentions and the policy that is implemented.

This is particularly troubling when the competitive nature of multilateral bargaining allows the government to keep its cards close to its chest on critical issues such as freedom of movement and trade agreements. Bright insists that this, “is not a democratic process at all”.

“We want to positively say that there does need to be scrutiny and transparency, and an opening up of this question, not just a rushing through on the royal prerogative,” she adds. “There needs to be transparency in everything that is being negotiated and discussed in the public realm.”

For campaigners, the use of royal prerogative is a sinister symbol of the government deciding whatever it likes, without consulting Parliament or voters, during the future Brexit negotiations. A ruling in the Supreme Court in favour of a parliamentary vote would present a small but important reassurance against these fears.