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The Department of Shoddy Journalism

The circulation figure for the lefty rag, New Statesman, fell over the edge of a cliff some time ago and is still plummeting.  Hardly surprising, if this is the standard of journalism.

Martha Gill writes an online column she calls Irrational Animals.  Her latest outpouring is entitled, Why “family men” make terrible bosses.  It’s possible Ms Gill has a reason for the scare quotes.  It’s also possible that it is nothing more than an annoying and pointless affectation.

There is a photo of iDave, his wife and youngest child with a caption reading, Do we like David Cameron more because he has children? Obviously the link here is that Cameron is a family man who also happens to be Tory Prime Minister.  Ed Miliband is also a parent but obviously he’s not the type of parent Ms Gill wants to smear write about.

If you’re trying to become the leader of a political party or a chief executive, it might be a good idea to have some kids – especially if you’re a man. For some reason, we like having family men at the top: perhaps because we think they’re more relatable; perhaps because we think they’re kinder or more empathetic.

Who is this “we” she’s talking about?  Is it the apocryphal “we” shonky journos use to prove yet another interminable non-point?  The crude and ramshackle device that masquerades as consensus but is nothing more than wishful thinking tarted up like a dog’s dinner?   Yes it is!

Political leaders, in particular, often introduce policy measures that affect children with a brief mention of their own kids (just to show parents that they’re on the same page) – or simply mention them apropos of nothing.

Gosh, political leaders with a family behave just like ordinary parents do.  Who knew?

“My children have onesies and I often say I’m very jealous,” Cameron announced last week, just to make sure, one last time, that we all know he’s a dad.

Yes, God forefend that Cameron should talk fondly about his brood.  It’s unnatural!  It shouldn’t be allowed!  Send for the Daddy Police!

The implication is that because a leader has children, he’ll care more about children in general. Anecdotally, at least, this seems not to be true. Before having children, people tend to have a benign (if not particularly invested) attitude towards other people’s kids. Have children of your own and these other kids become tiny competitors: less good at gym than your child but somehow in the gym team; inexplicably cast as Mary in the nativity play; undeservedly in a higher maths class; irritatingly better at the clarinet.

The implication is that Ms Gill could quite possibly be completely barking if she believes even half that guff.  Cameron is a crap leader because he is incompetent, not because he is a doting dad.  That goes double for Miliband and Clegg.

Although your image becomes fuzzier and warmer, your behaviour seems to go in the opposite direction. I have seen the genuinely empathetic suddenly start filling up their friends’ Facebook newsfeeds with 12 daily pictures of their newborns (all, surely, the same picture). I have seen the genuinely interesting and funny suddenly unable to talk about anything but nappy rash.

But has she seen or heard iDave do it when he’s Prime Ministering or whatever it is he thinks that entails?  If the answer is no then what point is being made here?  Anyone?  Oh, wait.  I forgot.  This is a lefty rag so what I’m reading is anti-Tory spin, not informed opinion.

The problem is that having children completely shifts your priorities. It makes you more grasping (on their behalf) – which makes the warm and fuzzy image rather odd.

Call me blind but I don’t recall seeing any shift, significant or otherwise, in iDave’s political viewpoint when his daughter was born.  Not even from the sad death of his son. If Ms Gill requires an example of how a politician shifts priorities for an offspring then she should look a little closer to home, to Diane Abbott.  A more appropriate example to illustrate this lefty wibble I can’t think of.

A recent study by the Aalborg University economics professor Michael Dahl showed that the first thing male CEOs do when they have their first child is to give themselves a raise at the expense of everyone else in the company. The research was carried out on a large group of Danish chief executives and found that when they had a child, their pay went up by an average of 4.9 per cent. The rest of the company were paid about 0.2 per cent less.

Michael who?

So what’s he said that has got Ms Gill’s thong in a twist about political leaders and parenthood?

Motivated by a growing literature in the social sciences suggesting that the transition to fatherhood has a profound effect on men’s values, we study how the wages of employees change after a male chief executive officer (CEO) has children, using comprehensive panel data on the employees, CEOs, and families of CEOs in all but the smallest Danish firms between 1996 and 2006. We find that (a) a male CEO generally pays his employees less generously after fathering a child, (b) the birth of a daughter has a less negative influence on wages than does the birth of a son and has a positive influence if the daughter is the CEO’s first, and (c) the wages of female employees are less adversely affected than are those of male employees and positively affected by the CEO’s first child of either gender. We also find that male CEOs pay themselves more after fathering a child, especially after fathering a son. These results are consistent with a desire by the CEO to husband more resources for his family after fathering a child and the psychological priming of the CEO’s generosity after the birth of his first daughter and specifically toward women after the birth of his first child of either gender.

Errr…That’ll be sweet FA then.  Dahl is writing about the behaviour of newly parented leaders of Danish industry and business.  I don’t see anything about politicians there at all.  So, WTF is Ms Gill banging on about?

If it’s a boy and a firstborn, male employees suffer particularly –wages going down by about 0.5 per cent. Interestingly, though, the effect is muted when the baby is a girl. Fathers of girls take a smaller pay rise (3 per cent) and give their female employees a tiny average raise.

Spontaneous physog/palm interface.

According to the researchers, the odd gender differences here are probably a mixture of straightforward competitiveness (with the men) and a raised awareness of the pay gap (which, though small, still exists in Denmark) that could now affect their daughters. They speculated that the results would be more exaggerated in the US but privacy laws made it too hard to get the right information.

Talk about losing the plot…

It’s an interesting study as it broaches the idea that caring about your children doesn’t necessarily translate into caring about anyone else. It might be time to give the childless a chance at promotion.

I don’t think so, Ms Gill.  Who the Scammel wants another Edward Heath in Number Ten?

It is clear that Professor Dahl’s latest book bears absolutely no relevance to British politicians who are fathers.  However, that hasn’t prevented Ms Gill from weilding it like a piece of Fabian two-by-four.  I know that progressives believe that the State is both mother and father but attacking Cameron for being a parent is both snide and pathetic.

Clearly Ms Gill is an expert an irrational animals.  She puts lipstick on one every morning.


  1. Mr Ed says:

    Stalin was a father, Hitler was not (as far as we know, but rumours exist). So Stalin was more selfish?

    The first thing I look for in any science is the mechanism, if there is one.

    The next thing is the methodology, and any positive or negative controls, if they can be devised.

    Humans are different to each other, ‘yes, we’re all individuals’ so experiments with people are not reproducible or comparable.

    To be fair, this rag differs little from other British newspapers when discussing science. It is just a winder anyone funds it, I believe that the owner is good for £300,000,000 or so, therefore it may well be around a while.

  2. dcardno says:

    Too many varieties of stupid to comment on, starting with:
    For some reason, we like having family men at the top…

    No, dearie. We like having capable people at the top (even though we often get it wrong), and in the group whose age and experience puts them in the running (realistically, late thirties or early fourties at the very earliest) the large majority are married men and married women. Of that cohort, again the large majority have children.

    If talent, ambition, drive, etc, are randomly and roughly equally spread in the population, then we should expect to see the majority of leaders being married with children in all spheres of activity. If there is a tendency for more men to engage in out-of-the-house undertakings than women, then we should expect to see more men-with-children than women-with-children. Even if there is no such tendency (although I believe there is, I just can’t be arsed to look it up), it is well-documented that men exhibit a higher standard deviation in all mental traits than women – more geniuses and more madmen with both tails of the curve fatter. Since we are trying to select from the right-hand end, the fatter male curve would yield more men-with-kids than women-with-kids.

    Not that I expect Ms Gill to understand any of that, much less accept it.

  3. Julie near Chicago says:

    Mr. Ed: “The first thing I look for in any science is the mechanism, if there is one.”

    Absolutely! (And if there IS no mechanism, as opposed to a mechanism not as yet discovered or understood, then we do not have a scientific theory–let alone a scientific explanation. What we have is not science, but daydreams of centaurs and unicorns.)

    Not that I have anything against centaurs and unicorns. At least in the abstract. :>)

  4. Sam Duncan says:

    Gosh, 0.5%! The evil moneygrubbing fiends!

    (Come to think of it, I wonder if that figure’s even statistically significant.)

  5. NickM says:

    C’mon Sam! None of it is statistically significant.

    Well… I think it’s a bit more complicated. Statistical data without mechanism doesn’t a theory make but it can be a bit of a starter.

  6. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    “It might be time to give the childless a chance at promotion”

    I wonder if we have stumbled across a degree of self-interest here?

  7. Edward Lud says:

    Quite happy here for her to stick the boot into Cameron.

  8. Lynne says:

    Edward Lud. Boot yes. Her attempt is more woolly sock. 😀

  9. Julie near Chicago says:

    Nick, absolutely no argument there, and if I implied otherwise I apologize.

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