in Politics

Notes from a gulag for Dads

Monkey MusicMy emasculation was completed this morning when I took MiniMe to Monkey Music for the first time.

It had to happen sooner or later, and while I’m obviously a proud and doting Dad I can’t help but be aware that as the sole man in a room full of mothers (and nannies) and children I am not fulfilling my gender stereotype.

Now, you might think this is a welcome break from politics and conference related postings, but sadly it isn’t. While I’m not going to discuss Brown’s speech (far better people than have done analysis on it) or The Sun‘s switch back to the Conservatives (was anyone really surprised?) I have been thinking about his proposals for teen mothers – more vulgarly know as ‘gulags for slags’.

While MiniMe and I were on our forced march around a community centre hall to martial music (well, something about rain) it struck me that this was parental responsibility in action. Was I particularly enjoying it? Perhaps not. Did I feel self-conscious? Most definitely. But was I part of a group who were taking responsibility for their child’s upbringing and development (even if outsourcing it to a nanny)? Absolutely.

We were on a forced march of responsibility. But oddly enough, we were there voluntarily. It was our responsibility, our duty, as parents. But this is a government that doesn’t seem to understand concepts like personal responsibility or freedom. They are, after all, the party that are suggesting sending leaflets to parents reminding them they are responsible for their child’s discipline.

And while we were there voluntarily Brown was going to compel teen mums on that route. No bad thing, a Daily Mail reader might say. But I cannot help but be shocked at the message this sends.

He is, in essence, saying to everyone around the teen girl, and the girl as well, that they need not take responsibility because the state can happily step in. Her parents need not worry themselves, as once they might, about the care of the child. And we certainly don’t want to trouble the father. No, the state is there and can take care of such problems. Behave as you wish, with no regard for the consequences because when you find yourself unable to cope because you can’t afford it or are too immature the state will bail you out.

And our prudent Prime Minister is also keen to point out that this is a cheaper way of looking after them. Well, fair enough, but then large dormitories would be a better way of providing social housing. And a return to workhouses might be a cost-effective way of tackling unemployment. Or is he saving these ideas for the election?

When you consider what the policy actually means – an extension of the state into people’s personal lives and an abrogation of personal responsibility – use of the phrase gulag isn’t that inappropriate.

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