I know it’s August but even so, the two ideas from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) I’ve noticed this weekend are remarkably wrong.
One is to make it compulsory for people to vote in the first election after they turn 18, or be fined. This is so wrong on so many levels. They’re right that getting into a habit of voting is a good thing, and that people who vote when young are more likely to continue to do so. But one of the things that makes our weird democracy work is that it is based on choice, and having that choice removed is wrong. Even worse is that it is also divisive and patronising by only being for one cohort.
I’d very happily make more of a big deal of the first time vote, but making it compulsory is wrong. It’s up to politicians to encourage us not force us.
The second idea is to offer women (and yes, it does appear to be only women) who are single parents (and, again, only them) leave to care for elderly parents or permit them to exchange some of their maternity leave with their own mothers. This is insulting. It is not just women who should be sharing the work of looking after children and parents. We all have parents, children, dependants of one sort or another; just offering these different sorts of leave (which actually if they weren’t so sexist would be quite a good idea) to women is wrong.
One of the reasons that women do the lion’s share of ‘caring’ is that we as a society are conditioned to see it as women’s work, and so our legislation and our general offering (mother and baby rooms, the status of part-time jobs etc) is almost exclusively focused on women. I’ve written before that the only way to seriously start to address this is for parental leave to be shared properly; this from the IPPR is actually a backwards step.
I don’t often single out particular organisations in this way but these two ideas are so wrong that I think it’s worth doing. I’m hopeful that in the future they will have some fairer, better ideas that are more likely to result in people having control over their own lives, rather than perpetuating stereotypes or allowing those responsible to evade their responsibilities.