David Cameron’s rootless Conservative government is casting around, finding ever more ways to shoehorn the state into our lives
Buried in all the talk of Brexit and Bowie this week has been the Prime Minister’s announcement that he intends to force every British parent to take state-run classes in parenting – if not on pain of criminal penalty then at least at the sharp end of some pointed fiscal incentives.
The Telegraph reports:
All parents should enrol in state-backed parenting classes to learn how to raise their children properly, David Cameron will say as he announces a new plan to stop families breaking up.
[..] He will use a major speech on Monday to set out proposals for a new voucher system to incentivise parents to attend the classes in an attempt to make parenting advice socially “normal” and even “aspirational”.
The Prime Minister’s plan comes as he announces a £70 million investment in relationship counselling to prevent hundreds of thousands of families splitting up over the next five years.
Mr Cameron’s speech marks the latest step in delivering on the Conservatives’ key election promise to help families at every stage of life.
So here we are. The man who lets his daughter be carried around in a Waitrose bag in the Downing Street gardens – when he isn’t accidentally leaving her behind at the pub – thinks that the rest of the country make such bad parents that what they really need is a big, heaped spoonful of big government medicine to set them straight.
One does not have to deny that family breakdown and – how to put it – “unaspirational” parenting have real, negative consequences in our society to balk at the notion of government run classes enforcing the childrearing fads of the day on first time parents.
And Cameron is not even targeting potentially troubled familes – that would be far too judgemental. No, these classes will be “made available” to all, because children “don’t come with a manual” and apparently what has worked for parents for thousands of years is suddenly insufficient to the task of raising a child in twenty-first century Britain.
Dr. Ellie Lee retorts in Spiked magazine:
As parents well know, it is one thing to seek out genuine expertise and help when a child has specific problems (for example, parents of a sick or disabled child will do everything they can to get help from doctors and find all the advice possible to make their child’s life better). But it is quite another to imagine that parents want to be taught the supposedly general skill of parenting. Rather, being a parent means taking on the responsibility for trying, experimenting, failing and learning from experience over and over again. And parents find that the best people to support them in their childraising are those in their family and local community.
… [This] episode shows how a belief in parental determinism, justified through neuro-nonsense, generates a policy programme based on the idea that raising children is just too important and difficult to be left to mere parents, their families and their communities. Those who hold an a priori belief in the need for parenting education simply cannot accept that parents may neither need nor want expert advice. The only conclusion they draw is that more must be done to find ways to train parents, and to increase parents’ ‘demand’ for their own training. Furthermore, they openly support the idea that taking babies away from their mothers is a way to ‘alter destinies’ and ‘improve life chances’.
Policymakers and a parasitical layer of third-sector organisations, whose claim to expertise and professional status lies in knowing how to improve others’ ‘relationships’, are telling us nothing about parents and the family. And it’s not just parents who lose through the relentless politicisation of parenting, and, by association, the private sphere; it’s all of us.
How long, one wonders, until David Cameron seizes upon that totalitarian idea from north of the border, and seeks to introduce a Scottish-style Named Person scheme in England and Wales, whereby a specified adult named by the government is placed in a position of co-responsibility, together with the parents, for the welfare of every newborn child?
Don’t think he wouldn’t do it. If we have learned nothing else about David Cameron since he came to power in 2010, we know that there is no conservative, small government principle which he is not happy to cast into the woodchipper if it helps him to dominate the political centre ground and atone for the supposed reputational sins of Thatcherism.
Never mind that the Named Person scheme was cooked up by Nicola Sturgeon’s swivel-eyed SNP government in Scotland, and is the complete antithesis to how a restrained state should behave. That won’t stop David Cameron if he spies an opportunity to undermine the nationalists, steal a march on the Labour Party and gain short-term tactical political advantage.
But that doesn’t make it good policy, good politics or the right thing for any party calling itself “conservative” to be doing. Who within the Conservative Party – James Cleverley, Chris Philp, Lucy Allan, David Nuttall? – will stand against this creeping tide of paternalism, one which is otherwise likely to be implemented unopposed given that both sides of the warring Labour Party would probably also approve?
Mandatory parenting classes as part of your masterplan for every stage of our lives?
Dear God, man, stop talking. You sound more socialist than Jeremy Corbyn.