Sunday, 29 January 2012

David Lammy and My Increasing Disappointment in the Labour Party.

This one is as the title says really. I feel that another nail has been pounded into the over crowded coffin of the current Labour party. Even Diane Abbott has been disappointing me recently, and that's saying something.

Anyway, today there was an article in the Guardian quoting Tottenham MP David Lammy's interview with LBC where he outlines his support for slackening the current smacking laws (you are allowed to smack your child but nothing that causes a reddening or marking of the skin). He feels that parents should be allowed to be "sovereigns of their own homes" and able to use their own judgement when it comes to disciplining their children. He actually goes so far to suggest that the London riots could have been avoided if parents were allowed to discipline their children with as much force as they like. I don't even have a response to that, it's such a stupid comment I don't think it needs one.

He did actually make a couple of good points in the interview, firstly that the reddening of the skin distinction was a bit irrelevant for non-white parents and secondly that many parents are confused by changes in law around smacking and disciplining their children. Obviously skin comes in many different colours and shades and some reddens easier than others so therefore a law that makes this distinction is completely unworkable. And if laws are changed and different distinctions made then people will be confused. Hell, I'm confused by it!

Unlike David Lammy though, my resolution for these discrepancies and confusion is simple. Ban smacking. If there was a blanket ban on hitting children there would be no space for arguments of any kind.

I am actually one of those people who can stand up and say "I was smacked as a child and it didn't do me any harm". I was never smacked hard and I wouldn't say that the smacking was ever unmerited (I consider drawing on the carpet with felt tips would be enough to drive any parent to their limits), and it didn't do me any harm, I love my parents dearly and we're very close. It's not shaped me that much as an adult; I don't resort to physical violence to settle disputes and I wasn't out there looting JD Sports during the riots. But I was scared of this punishment as a child and I vividly remember being afraid of the possibility of a smack. I am therefore aware that there is a distinction to be made between what the majority of parents would consider reasonable chastisement and what is very blatantly unreasonable abuse. The loving and happy childhood (with very occasional smacking) I had is obviously not in any way comparable to the likes of what Victoria Climbie and Peter Connolley went through but the crucial point is where do we draw the line? If there is a blanket ban then fewer children will suffer and fall through the net.

I cannot understand how it is illegal to hit an adult who is annoying you but it's OK to hit a child. Shouldn't we be protecting the most vulnerable members of our society?

I'm also not going to pretend that I have all the answers when it comes to child discipline. I am blessed with a generally well behaved and easy going child whom we currently employ a variation on the naughty step for. We call it the "thinking step", bleeding heart liberals that we are! The idea is that meanderingdaughter sits on the step, is told why and we check she understands and apologises for her misdemeanours before she's allowed off. It is working well but I think that's because it hasn't really occurred to her that if she really wanted to, she could get up and walk off; at the moment she just sits there and looks sheepish... I know this approach is frowned upon by some and that's fair enough, I don't know if it's the right way to go but what I do know is that's it's not causing meanderingdaughter any harm and that's the most important thing.

I would like to add that I also do occasionally completely lose my rag with meanderingdaughter and have screamed at her and scared her in a way I would not do to an adult (except when they step in front of my bike). Consequently I can see how easy it would be to lose control and hit a child, especially in difficult circumstances (eg being a single parent of more than one child) and I personally wouldn't censure a parent for doing so occasionally. Saying that (and I know I'm vaguely contradicting myself here) I don't however think that physically disciplining your child should be legally acceptable behaviour.

So, unlike Lammy, I am all for a tightening up of our laws and attitudes to child discipline in this country. I think a little more respect for self and others all round would work better for preventing riots and hopefully create relationships based on understanding instead of fear.

As a last point it is a worry that Lammy is touting these views when he is an MP for part of Haringey, a borough with arguably a more troubled past than most when it comes to child abuse. What those cases should teach us is that children's safety and well being should be a priority and there is no excuse for hitting a child.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Evening Standard's Dispossessed Fund

I fear this blog may be about to make a comeback as a place for me to vent my irritations in more than 140 characters but I'll try to throw in some parenting posts as well!

This one is triggered by noticing an Evening Standard front page while on my way home today. I normally don't touch the Standard as I have a huge issue with the way its vile messages are handed out for free and seem to be absorbed without question by a large number of London's commuters. I don't even blame the commuters really, the paper is just there alongside the morning's Metro and they're so insiduous and easy to pick up and read without questioning the message within.

Anyway, I note that the Evening Standard is giving away £1.25 million to charity as part of their ongoing Dispossessed Fund. Very commendable, although I daresay they can easily afford it. My big problem were their three big quotes on the front page:

Prince William "I consider the Evening Standard's exposure of hidden poverty a call to arms for us all. This is a great city. However, the plight of the dispossessed in its many forms tarnishes it"

David Cameron "The Dispossessed Campaign has stirred London's conscience and will have a big impact in helping people climb their way out of poverty"

Boris Johnson "I am grateful to the Evening Standard for again highlighting the poverty and deprivation that shame this city while giving every Londoner the chance to help remedy the situation"

Um... excuse me?

Dearest Wills, once your family of scrounging throwbacks start supporting yourselves then you can have a say on poverty. Until then keep your mouth shut, you embarrass yourself.

David, Dave, Davey boy. You could single handedly have a much bigger impact on helping people out of poverty if you stopped destroying the job market, the welfare system and everything else that makes this country a great place to be. You are forcing huge numbers of individuals, families and children into poverty which they will have no chance to climb out of. Is your conscience not stirred? Oh, I forgot, you never had one.

And darling, bumbling, lovable Boris. You twat. You should be ashamed of what you have done to London and your role in helping keep people in poverty and deprivation.

Glad I got that off my chest.