Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Respect, disrespect.

One thing I normally avoid with a capital "a" is saying, writing or doing anything which could be construed as endorsement for the Court of King Tony in Downing Street.
However, this observation reflects an issue where normality is sadly all too scarce.
Some friends & acquaintances of mine scoffed at the fanfare for Blair's "respect" agenda last week. And I agree with what they say about spin, one eye on the polls, style over substance, double standards, etc. Yes, yes, yes, the man will say anything, but the uncomfortable reality for many on the left is that this issue resonates.
I write with both feeling & personal experience. For some time now I've had problems with anti-social neighbours. The ins & outs of the saga don't bear repeating here (there may also be legal developments afoot).
The wider issue is highlighted by a story on the Guardian Unlimited website (,,1689335,00.html) .
Matt Weaver's article is a typically "liberal" take on an issue where firm & prompt measures take precedence over the muted mewlings of the civil liberties lobby.
Weaver's piece cites a study undertaken by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University on families with members involved in anti-social behaviour.
According to Weaver,
"It found:
. 80% of the families were headed by single mothers;
. a quarter of the families included at least one child with special educational needs;
. 39% had at least one family member with mental health problems, and
. 28% of the households reported a history of family violence."
The first of those four findings is undoubtedly controversial. We all remember John Redwood's question to a group of single mothers on a Cardiff housing estate a decade ago, "But where are the fathers?".
Yet the fact remains that people choose to be parents (with the easy availability of contraception & access, albeit inadequate, to abortion, let's have no more crap about "happy accidents" or surprises).
Becoming a parent is the most important decision anyone can make --it's so axiomatic that I surprise myself making that point--& it therefore requires careful thought, planning, commitment & responsibility. Too many parents, male & female, are failing in their duty. Society pays the price. Before I get deluged by hostile comments, let me say that many single mothers do a tremendous job in difficult circumstances.
Children at primary school need to be told in clear terms what they will forfeit if they have children before they're emotionally, mentally & financially prepared. It also means that there should be no "taboo" areas in reproduction classes.
The remedy, if that's not too grandiose a term, lies in education & the fostering of self-confidence in children as soon as possible.
I'm half-expecting a congratulatory comment from "T.B., Downing Street" soon. Oh well.......

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