On this week’s episode we’ll be discussing whether marriage is becoming an elite institution. We’ll also be wondering if the Tory glass is half full or half empty, and lamenting the loss of Britain’s tiny train lines.
First up: is marriage becoming the preserve of the rich? In this week's magazine, Ed West asks whether Prince Harry's presumably lavish nuptials will be the latest signal that marriage is becoming an increasingly rarefied institution. What can be done to reverse this slump? And ought we to be worrying about traditional unions in the 21st Century? To discuss, we were joined on the podcast by Frank Young, Head of the Family Policy Unit at the Centre for Social Justice, and Rosie Wilby, author of Is Monogamy Dead? As Ed writes:
"There was no marriage gap between rich and poor a couple of generations ago, but one has been opening up. The Office for National Statistics divides Britain into seven social classes. According to a study prepared for The Spectator, someone in the top class (i.e., company directors, university lecturers, etc) is 48 per cent more likely to be married than someone in the bottom social class (builders, office cleaners). At the turn of the century, the gap was 22 per cent. To those who think marriage is a quaint irrelevance, such figures don’t matter. But if you think that marriage is the most powerful sponsor of health, wealth and education, then it ought to be alarming. A new inequality is being bred in our society."
Next, as the sun starts to set on an eventful year, attention is being turned to contemplation of the Conservative party's 'glass'. Is it half-full, suggesting the nadir has been passed? Or is it half-empty, as Comrade Corbyn turns his attention to Downing Street? These are the questions that James Forsyth poses in his column this week, and he joins the pod along with Fraser Nelson. As James writes:
"How will the Tory party remember 2017? Will it be the year it lost its majority, alienated key sections of the electorate and paved the way for a Jeremy Corbyn premiership? Or the year when uncertainty about Britain’s future relationship with the European Union peaked, when debt finally began to fall and the Tory party resisted the temptation of a Corn Laws-style split? We won’t know for several years. What we can say with confidence is that Brexit will prove key to determining which view of 2017 wins out."
And finally, in the magazine this week, Peter Hitchens eulogises the lost railway lines of his childhood – particularly one that ran horizontally from Oxford to Cambridge – which were done away with in the 1960s. He joins the podcast to discuss this subject with railway historian Christian Wolmar, and consider whether railways are really socialist and if the lines ought to be renationalised. As Peter writes:
"What nobody then called the ‘Varsity Line’ was one of the very few railways in England that went from side to side of the country, rather than up and down it. It connected almost every mainline out of London and would have been extraordinarily useful had they kept it. True, it was not rapid. It had many small stations, of the sort where milk churns sat in rows and the guard liked to chat with the stationmaster, who often maintained a cat. It was served by a weary dark-green diesel unit, not much more picturesque than a bus, which stopped so often that it never heaved itself above 40 miles an hour. You could make the journey between the two university cities more quickly by going into the capital and out again."