Parenting lessons from the nanny state

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 reported:

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 – “un-aspirational” 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 families – 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.

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 wood chipper 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.


Samuel Hooper is a journalist and blogger. He is passionate about politics, free markets and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter here.

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