BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday launched a withering attack on fathers who abandoned their families -- calling for them to be "stigmatised" by society in the same way as drink drivers.
Mr Cameron chose Father's Day to declare that Britain needed to be made a "genuinely hostile" place for runaway fathers, who deserved the "full force of shame heaped upon them" and were "beyond the pale".
He also stressed his determination to bring in tax breaks for married couples -- a controversial policy that figured strongly in the Conservatives' manifesto before last year's general election.
Mr Cameron said: "I want us to recognise marriage in the tax system so, as a country, we show we value commitment."
And he launched his fiercest attack on those fathers who failed to show long-term commitment.
He added: It's high time runaway dads were stigmatised, and the full force of shame was heaped upon them.
"They should be looked at like drink drivers, people who are beyond the pale.
"They need the message rammed home to them, from every part of our culture, that what they're doing is wrong -- that leaving single mothers, who do a heroic job against all odds, to fend for themselves simply isn't acceptable."
Mr Cameron's praise for single mothers helps position him a world away from Tory critics who were accused of trying to stigmatise lone parents when the party was last in government, in the 1990s.
He said fathers must make the decision to support "financially and emotionally" their children even if they had separated from the children's mothers -- spending time with them at weekends, attending nativity plays and "taking an interest in their education".
He called for a new drive to "bring fathers back into the lives of all our children" and praised his government's "family friendly" reforms -- including flexible parental leave from work, benefit changes and more financial help for relationship support -- as a step in the right direction.
Mr Cameron said he learned many of his founding values from his own father, Ian Cameron. The former stockbroker died aged 77 last September after being admitted to hospital suffering a stroke and heart problems.
His death was just over a fortnight after the birth of Mr Cameron's fourth child, Florence, now 10 months.
He said: "From my father, I learned about responsibility. Seeing him get up before the crack of dawn to go and do a hard day's work and not come back until late at night had a profound impact on me.
"My dad, who was disabled, also taught me about optimism -- that no matter how bad things are you can overcome them if you have the right frame of mind.
"Indeed, if there's one gift my father gave me that I cannot thank him enough for, it was his ability to always look on the bright side of life," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)