Monday, 11 January 2010


There is no doubt in my mind that there is something wrong with some of the parenting in Scotland, or indeed in Britain, and I look forward to a challenging debate on how, in a new parliament, with a new government in London, we can make changes that will help children to have a happier and better start in life. Today David Cameron set out his stall on this matter.

In a departure from previous Tory administrations, Mr Cameron said that as Prime Minister he would promote active intervention in families to build a “responsible” society. The institution of marriage, the best environment in which to raise children, would be supported by tax breaks, and schools (a devolved issue here) would see a return to traditional values of respect and deference.

He called on the entire community to ensure that children picked up responsible messages, and warned businesses and advertisers that unless they stopped “sexualisation and excessive commercialisation” of young people, legislation could follow.

Mr Cameron pointed out: "What matters most to a child's life chances is not the wealth of their upbringing but the warmth of their parenting. Of course there's a link between material poverty and poor life chances, but the full picture is that that link also runs through the style of parenting that children in poor households receive.”

He also set out a new policy on Sure Start Centres for parents with young children. He said he wanted Sure Start to focus on the most “disadvantaged and dysfunctional” families, with staff paid by results.

Well... that’s enough to be going on with. A mixed bag of good, bad and indifferent here.

His warning to business and to advertisers is good. Stop treating children like adults. They are not. They have been exploited and sexualized for too long and it is a relief to hear someone, not so much in the pockets of big business as the current government, promise action.

I worry about a return to “respect and deference” though. Both of these things are good of course, and I’d love to see more of them, but before you encourage people to demonstrate them, there has to be something worthy of that respect and deference. I wouldn’t want to encourage kids to show respect to, for example, our lying, cheating politicians, just because they think themselves up there and us down here. Too much deference is the reason that they managed to steal so much from us without fear of being found out.

And I have a real worry about the mixed message Mr Cameron is sending. Children don’t necessarily thrive where there is more money, he tells us, but he proposes to pay couples to get married (children or no). Is this to please the Daily Mail?

Finally I note that after years of “paid by results” organisations, usually private sector ones, it still hasn’t got through to the people at the “top” that TARGETS DON’T WORK. I know. I’ve been there. Guess what Dave... Everyone, and I mean everyone, CHEATS. The people who really need help are ignored because it can take months, maybe even years, to tick just one box with them. The easy to help are helped, because within a week, all their boxes are ticked. Simples!

More thought required..... please!


  1. Well for a start I agree with you Tris that a future Conservative government should intervene to prevent businesses from exploiting children through their clever adverising techniques...the sexualisation of the young is deeply worrying. Good that a Conservative government will move to curtail this. And it is a step away from previous Thatcherite instincts of 'let business be', Cameronism continues to represent a modernised One Nationist pragmatism.

    But as to the idea of "respect and deference", I think your being a little hard Tris. All he means [i think] is a relatively simple message that character matters. The character of individuals, communities, families and adults. Surely anything that can get Britain back to some sustainable character traits is beneficial? May I venture that if we had more responsibility and stronger deference, say, for each other we may never have had Iraq.

    But all in all a fair and balanced pot Tris. For that open mind you keep I thank you, it is more than some would do. Your a credit to Scottish nationalism [the ideology, not neccessarily the Party].

  2. I always worry Dean, with these people that when they say deference and respect, they mean it for them. I'm still amazed to hear how they expect to be called 'Minister' and 'Mr'... when they are on the radio, and yet they call people like John Humphries, "John".

    I think we should all respect each other Dean... I don't believe in deference at all. Just respect and it should always be mutual. (That's maybe the socialist in me.)

    But my mind will remain open, I promise you. :-)

  3. Well I can ask no more of a socialist like you!

    But seriously, deference is no bad thing, though we may differ on what we should be paying deference to.

    Look at it this way, every Scot pays deference to their country, their flag. And a majority [ I would calculate] pay deference to the Queen. So deference is not such a bad concept for me to understand, and indeed accept as a potential fix to some of our social problems. After all character must be central to any battle to solve the broken society, I am sure to this much we can agree?

  4. Prince Charles will be very happy to hear that there is to be more deference and respect, he always likes to make sure he gets more than his fair share of both. I agree with Tris totally, this will not be a goer if it means more respect for people like Charles, the Queen, the House of Lords and all these people with titles and baubles from the British Empire. I don’t share Dean’s confidence in one nation Toryism and the idea that this will bring respect for one another. When did that last happen?

  5. Great then we will take all the wealth from the rich Families distribute it amongst the less well of families.

    After all as long as the wealthy are warm they really dont need their wealth.

    What confuse me is what does Cameron mean by the 'FAMILY' is he referring to the Christian model or say the Muslim(multiple wives) Rastafarian,Hindu,atheists..who knows?

  6. What's all this pish about deference? Did punk rock not happen or something? Bollocks, burp, you filthy rotter! The queen ate my hamster.

    Seriously though (actually that last para was serious), maybe Wavy Davy could promise to send all offspring of married children to private boarding schools. The fagging system clearly did him no harm and i don't see why it would fail all the other potential Tarquins out there.

    Tally ho!

  7. More social engineering, just what we need.

  8. Dean:

    I take deference to mean some sort of unqualified respect for one's "betters". As I believe that we are all pretty much equal in the stakes of birth, Tony Blair's son or the guy who lives above the chip shop are the same to me. If they are good guys, great; if they are bad guys, well, the opposite of great. Neither is better than me; neither is less than me.

    I don't see why I should defer to, for example the likes of Iris Robinson, just because (until last week when the wheels came off her little play) she was a person of some standing. Nor do I think it's appropriate for me to doff my cap to Lord Paul, who has been stealing from me for years. I do think it is appropriate to show respect to the lady across the road who looks after her elderly neighbours when the weather is bad.

  9. Munguin:

    Although I take your point, I think that Prince Charles will be largely unaffected by this. People at that 'level' still have deference shown to them. It's more the politicians I'm thinking about. Is David doing this so that, when his lot mess up the press will refrain from challenging them?

  10. Niko:

    In fairness, if we redistributed all the wealth tomorrow, as my mother has pointed out to me on numerous occasions, in ten years time, it would all be back where it started.

    I wonder about the "family” too. Will he give tax breaks to same sex couples for example, or couples who remain married although they live apart? If it is to help provide a stable place for children to be brought up, why pay those who have no children, or those in their 70s whose children have left home? Will it stop if someone is widowed, or one of the partners put into prison (on the grounds that this is not stable for the children)?

    The family is a wonderful thing, there's no doubt about it, but you make a good point. A muslim family with a number of wives looking after their own and other wives children also works very very well.

  11. Whilst I believe in the importance of being polite I do not believe that we should show deference to anyone, irrespective of their station in life. It would appear that those we are supposed to be most deferential to have obtained their station in life due to the fact that their forebears were evil, greedy, thieving and murderous thugs.

  12. Naldo:

    I take your point, although there was more than punk rock which got rid of "deference". People coming back after 2 world wars to find that after 5 years of fighting they were expected to get back to doffing their caps and living on subsistence wages; the 60s; punk rock; better health and living conditions, all snowballing....a Labour government, dare I say it, lots more too, I suspect.

    I really am for us all showing more respect to each other. It exists other places. There is far more interpersonal respect in French society for example. The fact that first names are not automatically assumed, la politesse française, the different ways of saying “you” dependent on relationship.

    Little story: My French friend’s mum lives at the top in a block of flats in Metz. She complained bitterly on the phone to Véronique that when she was coming down in the lift two teenagers got in at the 8th floor (Véro, having lived in Scotland for 10 years, was starting to panic as she heard this). Apparently, however, nothing to worry about; they didn’t mug her or take her purse; their crime was that they neglected to say “madame” after their “bonjour”.

    A little respect costs nothing. It oils the wheels. I back Mr Cameron all the way in trying to encourage this. Deference that will take us back 100 years? NO.

  13. QM: I thought that that was what the Tories were NOT about. I suspect that the Daily Mail is behind this. Maybe the Sun too.

    I wonder if this is the thin end of the wedge. Will they shortly bring in a law ensuring that we all attend church on Sundays.

  14. brownlie: A good summation, although now that we have pretendy Lords, sometimes it's not their ancestors that were all these things, but they themselves.... ;¬)

  15. Mr. Mxyzptlk Cameron is quite clear on what he means by 'the family'.

    I explain it on my blog here:

    Sorry Tris, normally I wouldnt do this, but I cannot be bothered repeating it all!

  16. Dean... No problem at all... :¬) Any time.

  17. Tris, yer bang on about the other knocks deference took in the 20th century, it's just that punk rock was the one i was around to enjoy.

    And i totally agree with you and Brownlie about respect and politeness.

    But Betty Windsor really did eat my hamster.

  18. Naldo: That's just plain greedy of her. Make her buy you another one. I'm sure we she could put it on expenses.

    I guess the punk movement was a serious contributory factor, and I certainly wasn't down playing it... I'm glad you enjoyed it. Musically, I have to say, I prefer something more tuneful, and I'm too much of a coward to stick safety pins in my skin....eeek :-)