Newlyweds release doves after their wedding at Festival House. Photo: Getty Images
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Mothers’ names will finally be added to UK marriage certificates

The prime minister has announced that the names of couples’ mothers will now be added to marriage registers, in the first reform to the system in over 150 years.

David Cameron has pledged that mothers’ names will now appear alongside fathers’ names on marriage certificates. This will be the first reform to the system in over 150 years.

The system, which dated back to the early years of Queen Victoria's reign, prohibited mothers from providing their details and only allowed the names of couples’ fathers to be entered on marriage registers. However, the Prime Minister’s announcement now guarantees the names of couple’s mothers to be added to marriage registers.

In a speech to the Relationships Alliance in central London, David Cameron said:

We’re going to address another inequality in marriage too. The content of marriage registers in England and Wales has not changed since the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign. At the moment, they require details of the couples’ fathers, but not their mothers. This clearly doesn’t reflect modern Britain - and it’s high time the system was updated”

Although for some this is a minor and perhaps insignificant part of the marriage process, essentially it reflects a dark past, when women were presented as the property of men and “chattels” to be traded.

A petition created earlier this year on change.org, asked for marriage to “no longer be seen as a business transaction between the father of the bride and the father of the groom”. For many people, including the seventy thousand people who signed the campaign, this outdated segment of the marriage process was viewed not only as a symbol of the oppression of women, but also a reflection of how casually society considers women's equality.

Journalist and feminist campaigner, Caroline Criado-Perez, felt unable to marry her fiancé until the changes to the registers were made, and previously stated:

We tell women to just get married anyway and ignore what is a legal process at the heart of the ceremony – that we tell women to concern their minds only with the fluffy bits. I think we ignore the significance, underlying or not, of legal documents at our peril.”

Since the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act came into force in July 2013, not only is the new reform another victory for those fighting gender equality, but also a promising step towards modernising marriage in Britain - as now, what applies to men, will also apply to women.

This seemingly small inequality is part of a much wider pattern of inequality,” said Ailsa Burkimsher Sadler, who started the petition. “Women are routinely silenced and written out of history. There is space for the name of the father of the bride and the father of the groom and theiroccupations. On civil partnership certificates there is space for mothers. On Scottish and Northern Irish marriage certificates there are spaces for mothers.”

She concluded:

 I never imagined I would get so much support and that the Prime Minister would respond to our calls -- and on my wedding anniversary! Thank you for all your support - we did it!”

Photo: Getty
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Why Chris Grayling is Jeremy Corbyn's secret weapon

The housing crisis is Labour's best asset - and Chris Grayling is making it worse. 

It feels like the classic Conservative story: wait until the election is over, then cancel spending in areas that have the temerity to vote Labour. The electrification of rail routes from Cardiff to Swansea – scrapped. So too is the electrification of the Leeds to Manchester route – and of the Midland main line.

But Crossrail 2, which runs from north to south across London and deep into the capital's outer satellites, including that of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, will go ahead as planned.

It would be grim but effective politics if the Conservatives were pouring money into the seats they won or lost narrowly. There are 25 seats that the Conservatives can take with a swing of 1 per cent from Labour to Tory, and 30 seats that they would lose with a swing of 1 per cent from Tory to Labour.

It wouldn’t be at all surprising if the Conservatives were making spending decisions with an eye on what you might call the frontline 55. But what they’re actually doing is taking money away from north-west marginal constituencies – and lavishing cash on increasingly Labour London. In doing that, they’re actually making their electoral headache worse.

How so? As I’ve written before, the biggest problem for the Conservatives in the long term is simply that not enough people are getting on the housing ladder. That is hurting them in two ways. The first is straightforward: economically-driven voters are not turning blue when they turn 30 because they are not either on or about to mount the first rungs of the housing ladder. More than half of 30-year-olds were mortgage-payers in 1992, when John Major won an unexpected Conservative majority, while under a third were in 2017, when Theresa May unexpectedly lost hers.

But it is also hurting them because culturally-driven voters are getting on the housing ladder, but by moving out of areas where Labour’s socially-concerned core vote congregates in great numbers, and into formerly safe or at least marginal Conservative seats. That effect has reached what might be its final, and for the Conservatives, deadly form in Brighton. All three of the Brighton constituencies – Hove, Brighton Kemptown and Brighton Pavilion – were Conservative-held in 1992. Now none of them are. In Pavilion they are third, and the smallest majority they have to overcome is 9,868, in Kemptown. The same effect helped reduce Amber Rudd’s majority in Hastings, also in East Sussex, to 346.

The bad news for the Conservatives is that the constituencies of Crawley, Reading, Swindon and in the longer-term, Bracknell, all look like Brightons in the making: although only Reading East fell to Labour this time, all saw swings bigger than the national average and all are seeing increasing migration by culturally-driven left-wing voters away from safe Labour seats. All are seeing what you might call “Hackneyfication”: commuters moving from inner city seats but taking their politics with them.

Add to that forced migration from inner London to seats like Iain Duncan Smith’s in Chingford – once a Conservative fortress, now a razor-thin marginal – and even before you add in the appeal of Jeremy Corbyn’s person and platform, the electoral picture for the Conservatives looks bleak.

(It should go without saying that voters are driven by both economics and culture. The binary I’ve used here is simplistic but helpful to understand the growing demographic pressures on the Conservatives.)

There is actually a solution here for the Tories. It’s both to build more housing but also to rebalance the British economy, because the housing crisis in London and the south is driven by the jobs and connectivity crisis in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Or, instead, they could have a number of measures designed to make London’s economy stride still further ahead of the rest, serviced by 5 per cent mortgages and growing numbers of commuter rail services to facilitate a growing volume of consumers from London’s satellite towns, all of which only increase the electoral pressures on their party. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.