In the past few days Tottenham MP David Lammy caused a mini-riot of his own, sparking a new debate on smacking after he inadvertently claimed the summer riots occurred because parents were too scared to physically punish their children. One retraction later, Lammy has reiterated the need for mums and dads to have the freedom to smack if necessary.
It is ironic that David feels so strongly about the issue, as it was of course Labour who introduced the Children’s Act in 2004, restricting parents' use of force in the first place. Now the MP, who admits to smacking his children, has called on the law to be relaxed. For once, a Labour MP and I are seeing eye to eye.
Of course it's a simplification to say that smacking would solve the social problems in this country that the riots laid bare, but there is a kernel of truth in what Lammy says. This is not about whether we agree with smacking or not, but about allowing parents to bring up their children without interference or permission from the state. Whether it is the 'nanny state' or 'big brother', it is ludicrous that the government can interfere so much in how we raise our children.
It is not just parents fearful of imposing discipline though. Teachers, relatives and other members of society are afraid to shout or restrain aggressive and abusive children for fear of the consequences. Lammy was half right when he blamed the riots on smacking rules; a lack of overall discipline has meant children have nothing to fear and there are no repercussions if they misbehave. With no boundaries, it is no surprise many kids run riot or turn to crime.
Of course smacking isn’t always the answer and it is possible to punish without resorting to force. But we should not damn those who choose to use force, as sometimes this is the only realistic option. It is not the government’s place to tell someone how to live their lives. Yes, the state should be there to protect those who need it, but not to wrap us all up in cotton wool.
Unsurprisingly there are some on the left critical of Lammy for daring to share his constituents’ fears on a national platform – it is not often an MP listens to the people and acts on it! He said he was inspired to speak up after residents revealed they were worried that if they hit their children they would have them taken away. What a sad state of affairs. Parents too scared to discipline in case the state doesn’t take too kindly on them.
The state should be supporting parents, not ostracising them. It seems the state is either an absent parent or an over the top one, ostracising and marginalising instead of supporting. It is high time politicians left parents to decide what is best for their children.