I am pleased the debate about the need for a Minister for Men is continuing. I was asked a lot at the Conservative Party Conference and it was debated on BBC’s Politics Show recently. While that debate was subsequently soured by the terrible comments on GB News, the comic Geoff Norcott raised the issues men face. But two of the other panellists seemed not to take his reasoned argument seriously. It was very telling.
In effect, their position was if we looked at the problems men and boys face, we are somehow diminishing the issues women and girls face. It is a divisive view and one that is not true.
It is clear to me that we can try to solve the issues that women and girls face, and, at the same time, solve the issues men and boys face. We can think two thoughts at once. As a country, surely we are mature and sensible enough to do so?
When men and boys are doing well, so are our women and girls. And vice versa. We share our lives, our work, our families and our society together. I want my wife and daughter to do well, and my son too.
I saw recently a new group called Just3MumsWalking who are raising funds for Papyrus, the excellent suicide prevention charity for young people. All in memory of their three sons who sadly passed away. Just as the 3DadsWalking are doing so in memory of their three daughters. This is how it should be – no politics or divisiveness. It is about equally caring about one another.
This I believe is also the view of the majority of the country. I have had emails and letters from men and women across the country over the past month saying we need to do better for our men and boys. Social media has been the same as was the BBC’s Women’s Hour phone-in. Most of the public were on side.
We have a Cabinet Minister, Kemi Badenoch, whose role includes being the Minister for Women and Equalities. We also have a Minister for Women, Maria Caulfield. We have a Women’s Health Strategy and a Women’s Health Ambassador. These are significant achievements and they rightly shine a spotlight on issues specific to women. As the crisis in men and boys’ wellbeing shows, there are specific issues affecting them too.
Today, 13 men will die by suicide, 88 men will die of heart disease; and over 2,500 men will be sleeping rough. Wembley Stadium can be filled by the number of men in prison, growing numbers of young men are not in education, work or training (over 400,000), and boys are behind girls at every stage of education. Around 35,000 fewer 18-year-old boys will go to the university this autumn than girls of the same age.
These are all troubling statistics, but having been elected to Parliament four years ago, I see very little focus from the Government or any other national institution that is looking to address them.
We need a Minister for Men.
They would provide a laser-like focus on these issues across government. He or even she, it does not matter to me, would hold government ministers to account and act as a focal point for policy change.
One of the key groups that have been focused upon in the Government’s very welcome Suicide Prevention Strategy are middle-aged men and those working in construction and manufacturing. It shows these issues are being recognised but we need a Minister to hold those to responsible for delivery to account.
We also need a positive conversation about men and boys centred on the great things they do and what help they need – not centred on the bad things that a very small minority do. Society has to care more about men and boys.
The current deafening silence from Westminster and Whitehall on these issues cannot continue. If we believe in an equal and inclusive society we need to look after our men and boys – and our women and girls. We can think two thoughts at once.