It was Ronald Reagan who said "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I’m from the government and I’m here to help'". Then again, he also said that trees cause more pollution than cars and once raised a toast to "Prince Charles and Princess David", so you can’t go along with everything he said. But on the point about the government, I tend to agree.
So alarm bells have been ringing this week as our government again acts beyond its remit and starts trying to (s)mother us with parental concern. They know best, you see. We’re all far too stupid and poorly educated to make our own decisions. No matter! Let the government do our thinking for us!
First there was the 'Dad Pack'. Distributed by a group called Fathers Direct, but funded with taxpayer money, it’s a guidebook aimed at new dads, dispensing some truly invaluable advice: never drop your baby into a tub of hot fat, don’t leave your offspring unattended with wolves, don’t bring up your child with Latin as their first language, tell them to steer clear of houses made of gingerbread, etc. Patronising rubbish, a waste of money and, to paraphrase Basil Fawlty, an exercise in the bleedin' obvious.
Now, in an effort to curb Britain’s growing obesity crisis, Super Government™ is stepping in again, with plans to restrict when and where certain food products can be advertised, and proposing a 9pm watershed for the advertising of junk food. Sounds unworkable, expensive and endlessly bureaucratic (who defines what is and what isn’t "junk" food anyway? A government department, presumably. The Ministry of Meddling Do-Gooders, perhaps?). A perfect government initiative then. Ironic, too, that the people bleating about the abundance of fat children are the very same people who have sat back and allowed local authorities to sell off vast amounts of school playing fields over the last nine years.
I don’t want to be too cynical. I’m sure that their motives are essentially good. However, I would make two points. Firstly, it is not the government’s business what we eat, drink or smoke; nor when, why, how or where we do it. Secondly, when it comes to any sort of public initiative, the government are about as effective as a one-legged man at an arse kicking competition.
Fix the health service, fight crime, sort out the prisons, give us better schools. But don’t tell us how to live our lives or raise our children. You are the government and you are removable. You are not our mother.
As George Orwell said in 1984: If you want a vision of the future, imagine an over-protective nanny wagging a finger in your face and saying "you can't do that, you shouldn't drink this, you mustn't watch that" - forever.