Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Polly Toynbee and the nanny state

Let's analyse the opening paragraph of Polly Toynbee's column in the Guardian today:
The nanny state is the good state. A nanny is what every well-off family hires if it can afford it. So why do the nanny-employing Tories use the word as an insult? In the Commons and in their press, they bray like a bunch of prep-school bullies calling anyone a cissy if they do what nanny says.
There is a simple fact that Toynbee seems to have overlooked. Well-off families hire nannies if they have young children: parents do not hire nannies because they want to be looked after themselves. (Apart from Wendy Craig in the Hammer film The Nanny, that is, and it is not a happy precedent.)

It is because she ignores this that Toynbee finds herself putting forward the nonsensical argument that Tory MPs are behaving like children ("prep-school bullies") because they want to be treated like adults.

It would be easy to say that someone who cannot grasp the difference between an adult and a child should not be writing for a national newspaper. But increasingly society as a whole is having trouble holding that distinction in mind.

We should not be so surprised if a society that increasingly treats children as adults begins to show signs of treating adults as children.

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