A ten year-old girl called Charlotte was widely reported in the press as having bested Andrew Neill during a television programme recently. In a discussion about the government’s proposals to ban unhealthy food from schools, Neill asked her whether she knew what the nanny state was.
Little Charlotte replied by reading something from a page in front of her. She asked Neill whether he remembered the day in 1983 when the wearing of seatbelts in cars was made compulsory. That, too, was unpopular at the time, she said, but it had saved many lives.
Neill said that he was sure that Charlotte was going to tell him how many, and he was right. She said 300 a year with an impressive degree of certainty. Neill said that when he was her age, if someone imposed a rule on him, he broke it.
Little Charlotte then told him that this might have been because he was not properly educated about health and well-being. The press generally praised little Charlotte and thought she had put Neill in his place but I was appalled by her. She had the air of a prig, a know-all and a robot all at the same time. Clearly she had been tutored, for I do not believe any 10 year old, born in 2005 or 2006, would have found the date of the introduction of compulsory seatbelts by herself. She was put up to it.
I was reminded of Pavlik (Pavel Trofimovitch) Morozov, the Soviet boy who, according to legend, was killed in 1932 by his grandparents after he denounced his own father to the authorities, as a good Communist boy should. He was reputed to be a fervent supporter of the collectivisation of agriculture, which his father opposed and allegedly subverted. The whole story was a fabrication, but at least Pavlik was supposed to be 13 at the time of his death.
Little Charlotte’s head had already been filled with ideology about health and something called well-being. One could easily imagine her denouncing her parents to the health police for having given her a chocolate biscuit. The other child with her, called Henrietta, also 10, said that she thought that she ought to be told what to do by the government if it saved the NHS money.
No one could be more appalled than I by the horrible muck some parents give their children to eat. But Charlotte and Henrietta appal me more.