Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Government knows better than the Parents

In an extraordinary High Court ruling on abortion, a Judge ruled that girls under 16 can have an abortion without their parents' knowledge. It was a ruling that will have a profound effect on the rights of parents, yet it was only the sixth item on the evening news and attracted barely a murmur of protest. Had the same case happened in the United States, it would have sparked a national debate.

Supporters of childrens rights will no doubt respond that our level of debate is more mature than the United States and that we have a more measured attitude to abortion, except for the fact that there has been no debate! From stem cell research to euthanasia, from parental rights to gay marriage, one decision after another has been taken at either government level or by various NGOs with little or no public consultation.

You often hear that Britain is becoming more "progressive", but that isn't necessarily the same as being open minded. There is certainly a liberal concensus across the establishment whether its amongst politicians, academics, NGOs or the European Union. But when you all think alike, why bother consulting people?

Which takes me to the subject of the smacking ban.

Last week, the UK's four child commissioners called for a total ban on smacking. It doesn't really matter that one poll after another has shown most voters are opposed to a ban. A ban is inevitable because the "experts" have spoken and the majority of MPs support them. And the voters will learn to live with it, they don't really have a choice. Ten years ago, you couldn't make a trip to the supermarket without seeing a parent smack their errant child. Now, such a thing has become taboo. It's not that parents have suddenly embraced "progressive" thinking, it's more the fact that they are too scared of being told off by someone, or of being reported to childline.

Step by step, parenting has been nationalised by the Government. I'm not even going to get into the smacking debate, that has already been decided. But what's abundantly clear is that this debate has a whole lot less to do with the supposed rights and wrongs of smacking and whole lot more to do with social control. There are many influential people in the social services, education and in Parliament who are suspicious of the family, distrustful of parental authority, and who regard any form of discipline as abuse. So why stop at smacking? What about parents who shout at their kids? Or who send them to their room without dessert? Anyone who has watched Supernanny will have seen how just five minutes in the naughty chair can drive a child to tears. Who knows, ten years from now even Jo Frost might be beyond the pale. No doubt to some she already is.