Labour?s Nannying Tendency

Labour?s Nannying Tendency

Alan Johnson: Labour’s Nannying Tendency

The Conservative leader David Cameron has been wooing my daughter. He wrote to her last week to press his suit.

“Dear Ellie, I wanted to write to you personally. Over the past decade we have seen the illiberal hand of the state creep further into our lives. Anti-terror legislation is used against cyclists and photographers. Local councils use surveillance powers to snoop on parents applying for school places. Now plans for ID cards and a state database holding the details of all our children threaten further intrusion.

It?s time to take a stand against the ever-increasing powers of the ‘big-brother’ state. A Conservative Government will:

? Scrap the intrusive ID card scheme
? Stop ContactPoint, the state database which would give nearly 400,000 officials access to information on our children
? Review the controversial Vetting and Barring scheme which would require people to be vetted before refereeing a children?s football match or driving a team minibus;
? Abolish Council Tax inspectors right of entry into your home
? Review the operation of the Extradition Act, which allows extradition to a range of countries without that country having to produce proper evidence that the person has committed a crime; and
? Pass a new British Bill of Rights which will protect traditional liberties like the right to trial by jury.”

If this sounds reasonable, that?s probably because it is reasonable.

Defining the proper role of a modern social democratic state, New Labour has got it wrong. Twice over. When it came to the bankers, Labour opted for “light-touch” regulation. “We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich,” bragged Peter Mandelson, one of New Labour?s architects. But for ordinary people it seems no amount of state officials poking about in our lives is ever going to be enough for Labour?s nannying tendency. The result has been the slow erosion of trust throughout the public services, the bureaucratic suppression of initiative, the rise of an army of inspectors demanding adherence to a mass of regulations, and the loss of civil liberties.

Ben Rogers has an excellent article in Prospect magazine (online sub required) examining the nannying tendency?s latest extension of the powers of prying state. From November anyone who has weekly contact with a child through a school or any other organization will have to be vetted by a new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). The measure is worthy of Orwell says the Guardian. ?Whatever the problem…the labour government reaches compulsively for the law and the bureaucrat,? says Rogers.

Win or lose the general election on May 6, Labour?s nannying tendency will have to be taken on. Rogers says there is a mood to do so.

“I talked to many left-leaning public servants and academics who offered a critique of the new rules more or less identical to the Tory one. When I pointed this out, they would look uncomfortable and reply along the lines of, ‘Well, I don?t agree with them on most things, but if that?s what they are saying then they?re right.’ I have come to share their view and their discomfort.”

Me too.