Tory plan to ‘provide’ more ‘marriageable’ working class men?

// 23 July 2008

So, a shadow cabinet member went on the Today programme this morning, to explain its policy on apprenticeships for young ‘people’ “Not in Education Employment or Training”. Or, in the words of the Today programme presenter, “part of a far bigger ambition to provide more marriageable working class men, more stable families, and less crime”.

Wow. The Conservative party, led by Eton educated David Cameron, has a plan for making working class men more “marriageable”. Patronising & classist much?

From the transcript lovingly written up by reader Hannah, who suggests we all write in to the BBC and complain, the presenter actually manages to be more offensive than the shadow innovation, universities and skills secretary, David Willetts, who is putting forward the policy. However, at no point did Willetts attempt to correct Evan Davies.

All Evan Davies’ questions assume that the apprenticeships are aimed solely at men, and that it’s perfectly OK to have government policy on how to marry working class men to working class women (and only working class women?) And he displayed no concern about young women who are not in education, training or employment – presumably they will simply get married to the young men who have taken up the apprenticeships, settle down, have a stable family and thus fulfill their duty to prevent crime. And the debate, of course, featured three men – none of them from the demographic that the Tories want to social engineer.

But let’s not let Willetts off – he also makes the assumption that these apprenticeships are basically aimed at young men – not young women. And, of course, it’s all very heteronormative – nothing in there about encouraging these young people to settle down in stable civil partnerships, eh?

Well you, you, what you do is you give them the freedom to shape the

apprenticeships they need and Evan, the young men want to do these, last year there were 50,000 applications for 9,000 apprenticeship places in the construction industry, we’re going to ge-tear down the barriers that stop the construction industry taking on more apprenticeships and that’s good for the construction industry, and that’s good for the country.

So do we assume that apprenticeships will only be open to men? Or just that the language used to promote them will subtly (or not so subtly) exclude women? How about this for a novel idea, David – apprenticeships for everyone, actively promoted for all genders, and stop trying to legislate people’s love lives.

Comments From You

Catherine // Posted 24 July 2008 at 9:16 am

Clearly the men need to be given Skilled Work that will give them the Respect of their Traditional Communities, whilst the women need to be able to count to 10 and use a cash register so that they can serve in a little cake shop until they get married.

(Not, indeed that the lack of apprentices for both men and women and the appalling neglect of education in and respect for jobs in technical skills is not a big problem in the UK, but this does not seem to be the way to address it.)

Leigh // Posted 24 July 2008 at 10:49 am

David Cameron is a Skrull.

Paul // Posted 24 July 2008 at 11:31 am

This is the sort of arch authoritarianism the Conservatives were notorious for during their time in office. Hopefully things like this will make people see their true colours, despite all the re-branding that’s been going on.

Of course, this is patriarchal, heterosexist, and condescending. But ultimately it is an extreme form of social engineering and the perpetuation of both the class system and traditional family values. That’s what most disturbs me here.

Everybody should make a complaint to the BBC.

Patrick // Posted 24 July 2008 at 11:40 am

Is the transcript available online anywhere?

Frances // Posted 24 July 2008 at 12:25 pm

It’s like they both really try to use neutral language and then just slip in the blink of an eye to the patriarchal, patronising “family centric” tory rhetoric that we know and deride.

“women not feeling like they need to marry men”, is apparently the cause of violence and gangs. Stop laying the blame for unemployed men, violent gangs and crime at the feet of women! We are not solely responsible for providing a “stable” family.

Also I love the idea that if men aren’t attractive to women, why would they be attractive to employers? Good question, Evan Davies, why are there so many unemployed men? Oh no, wait, there are far more unemployed women, and women in lower paying jobs, and women who work part-time, but that’s ok, because if the man has a job then society will not unravel.

Sarah // Posted 24 July 2008 at 12:39 pm

Try this:

Soirore // Posted 24 July 2008 at 2:14 pm

This is utter crap. The fact is that apprenticeships are open to all young people. Unfortunately young women are already discouraged from pursuing them due to the sexism in the construction industry for example.

In fact there are more people wanting apprenticeships than places available, Cameron isn’t trying to do anything new. The problem that needs to be addressed is that around half of those who begin apprenticeships don’t finish them. My suspicion is it’s because they can’t afford to. It would be nice if Cameron noticed that these young people don’t get time to do extra part time work like those completing A levels do, so it currently is a way of making poor kids poorer.

Only Cameron wants to additionally restrict it to males and make them feel crap about themselves too. Moron.

Sarah // Posted 24 July 2008 at 2:40 pm

Though actually that’s not a transcript, it’s a link to the ‘Listen Again’ feature where you can hear a recording of the programme – not sure if that’s any help!

Laurel Dearing // Posted 24 July 2008 at 3:03 pm

im probably missing something that david cameron is saying. why is it bad that people arent marrying? i mean its double the housing now but it sure cuts down the amount of people in the next generation buying. i dont see the problem with people making those choices. whats wrong with it? media has had men looking petrified at the mention of marriage for decades if not longer. what do they expect? for us to all start begging? many men want marriage and many women dont. big deal. there are enough of ech to even out im sure.

as for educating people to do well in marriages then ok. bit condescending but right. but only men? aimed at working class? i mean damn! sure, we see a lot more of this stuff in the working class, but there are many many people apart from that, and what does he know of the troubles specific to them that make it so hard? nothing. maybe the actual teachers will know something but its sure very patronising to be told how to live your family home. if its only aimed at men im assuming that theres a gender role being sold to them. thats pretty odd to give one half of a coupe when you dont know what the other half will be like.

Stephie // Posted 24 July 2008 at 6:00 pm

Ah Tory logic. You have to love it. Because of course, crime only emanates from working class communities. That shit kind of makes me want to be a little bit sick.

Eleanor T // Posted 24 July 2008 at 9:50 pm

While I agree wholeheartedly with the point this blog post makes (your posts always impress me, Jess), I think it’s also important to look at which groups are the most likely to benefit from training schemes and apprenticeships in the UK. Statistically speaking, the most under-achieving group in schools nationwide is white, working-class boys. They are the most likely to fail exams, drop out of school and not enter further education. I think it’s therefore very important to encourage this particular demographic with non-academic training schemes, as they are the most in need of them.

HOWEVER, this interview was clearly complete and utter codswallop, and I think to ignore other vulnerable groups is an excerise in stupidity. If training schemes and apprenticeships exist it should be made clear that they are offered to ALL groups, even if they benefit one group more than others.

“It would be nice if Cameron noticed that these young people don’t get time to do extra part time work like those completing A levels do, so it currently is a way of making poor kids poorer.” – Well said, Soirore.

And as for the marriage thing… WTF?!

Jess McCabe // Posted 24 July 2008 at 10:21 pm

I agree Eleanor (and thanks by the way!) – however, it also has to be seen in the context that very few young girls and women are going into manual trades, or taking up internships – they’re still male-dominated professions. The old Equal Opportunities Commission did loads of good research on why this is happening, and the economic and social impacts.

Eleanor T // Posted 24 July 2008 at 10:51 pm

Jess – “…however, it also has to be seen in the context that very few young girls and women are going into manual trades, or taking up internships – they’re still male-dominated professions.”

I couldn’t agree more! I wish I’d said that in my own comment, actually…

Rhona // Posted 25 July 2008 at 9:29 am

Good lord – women to blame for the fact that vulnerable young people from disadvantaged communities are failing to get on in life? What a surprise…

On a slight tanget, I see the Daily Male has an article today on how women are to blame AGAIN for why Teh Menz are going bad from an early age.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 25 July 2008 at 12:10 pm

@ rhona

“My four-year-old son returned home recently with a book about dogs and cats. On the last page we are introduced to the owner of the pets – an Asian girl in a wheelchair.

A story about reading, counting and animals is thus transformed into one about minorities and disability. This might be socially inclusive, but is it the best way of learning to read? ”

im sure having a diverse character as normal instead of token will GREATLY affect the poor boy *smacks head* femail? gimme a break! arent there a lot of white male character in the lead roles? hell yes! what a winge!

Sarah // Posted 25 July 2008 at 1:57 pm

What a strange story. Surely it’s more sensible to admit that girls and minority and disabled people exist too, rather than trying to make every children’s book be set in an artificial world where everyone is white, male and able-bodied. Isn’t that a worse example of social engineering and censorship?

Not to mention that some of the children reading the book might actually be Asian or female or use a wheelchair themselves. But no, it’s more important that the white boys are never distracted by being allowed to see a picture of a child who looks slightly different from themselves? WTF?

Soirore // Posted 25 July 2008 at 2:18 pm

I had to laugh at the Mail article (surprise) that Rhona linked to. On the one hand the parents are saying “boys will be boys, they like running around and being noisy” then saying it is the teacher’s fault that the boys can’t read. Either there are genetics that determine boys’ “playful” behaviour and lack of interest in studying, therefore making their lack of reading skills natural. Or their lack of interest in reading at primary age is part of a gendered social culture reinforced by parents. Which is more convincing?

Why don’t parents (and others) take responsiblity and realise that telling their sons that “real” boys do physical activity rather than reading may affect their learning. Plus I seriously doubt any school would only have vacuous books about characters going to shops.

Charlotte // Posted 25 July 2008 at 5:05 pm

And to think the Conservatives have such a horrible chance of being voted into the government! I am getting frustrated by the gender sterotypes that have shaped my life from the moment I was born, so seemingly okay to society. Shouldn’t be commenting now really after reading a digusting article in the Daily Male called “Save the Males”, ick. I totally agree with Eleanor, Soirore and Laurel D comments, all too true. Thanks for the article, love the website :)

Shea // Posted 25 July 2008 at 11:57 pm

Argh yes blame the “feminists”! If the boys aren’t doing well it is because they system is “feminised” and biased to favour girls (since when?) and because “biologically” boys need to do more sport. Equally we could indulge in a little biological theorizing. Perhaps girls are “naturally” more academic, they have more sophisticated intellect and neural structure? They are just better at more intellectually challenging subjects, than boys who prefer “manual” occupations? No, not liking that logic? Didn’t think so.

The Daily Mail– what complete horsesh*t.

Kate Smurthwaite // Posted 26 July 2008 at 12:33 am

Oooh hold me back – nothing turns me on more than an apprenticeship! What Jane Austen novel does that knave Mr Cameron Esquire live in?

Laurel Dearing // Posted 26 July 2008 at 11:10 am

lol i commented. it wasnt insulting at all, just a little perspective, but could they print i? lol. hell no. grr!

Wendy // Posted 27 July 2008 at 12:02 pm

This is an aside, asa thankyou.

I returned to England 8 months ago after having lived in the Pacific NW US for 8 years. The impression I’ve gained from reading online newspapers, listening to colleagues at work (I haven’t bothered with a TV) and in conversations with people locally and services has been extremely disapointing.

Finding this website has been a big relief. Thank you.

Dieter // Posted 31 July 2008 at 2:43 am

Could the tories at least try some convincing lying when they want to screw us over, this current model where they outright state their malevolent intentions and just assume we’ll roll over for it anyway is a little insulting.

Carmen Seaby // Posted 31 July 2008 at 10:36 am

I just sent the following feedback to the Today show:

I heard your Today show interview with the Conservative David Willets and was shocked by the classism and sexism from both the Conservative guest and your host, Evan Davies.

The assumptions by David Willets that all potential apprentices are men is so offensive and outdated, I could not believe I was hearing it. As is the idea that men not in education or training need to be trained so they are ‘more marriageable’. As is the idea that women are not potential apprentices, but are just potential wives for the potential apprentices. I could not believe that your host did not challenge his guest on these assumptions, and actually seemed to whole-heartedly agree with these ideas. It was refreshing to hear the other guest, an employer, speak about the potential apprentices as young people looking for work – not as men who need to be made more mariageable so they won’t be out committing crimes and contributing to the breakdown of society.

Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds do need access to training like apprenticeships but all I heard in this interview was condescending codswallop. I hardly feel that this Tory programme would look at or care about how many women are applying for apprenticeships and how many people drop out of apprenticeships early and why this happens.

I might have expected this from the BBC 50 years ago but it is certainly not ok today. Are these kinds of offensive attitudes considered appropriate for BBC hosts? Will your host, Evan Davies be reprimanded about the inappropriate and offensive nature of his comments?

Carmen Seaby



Carmen Seaby // Posted 31 July 2008 at 11:45 am

If you want to send a formal complaint to the BBC about the Today show, email it to . After sending my feedback I emailed it again to this email address saying that I sent them feedback about their show but I’d actually like to make a formal complaint.

Pam // Posted 7 October 2008 at 8:25 am

How depressingly typical. I work for an all-female property maintenance company, and we are constantly getting calls and e-mails from women looking for these kinds of apprenticeships. There’s not enough available, and it’s even harder for women to get them than for men. It’s exactly this sort of attitude that perpetuates the discrimination that women face when trying to enter the trades.

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