Following the summer riots the Tories have been falling over themselves to look like they’re Doing Something (usually terrible ideas). Another dreadful idea has emerged from the Cabinet Office, this one inexplicably originating from the Department of Work and Pensions, with somewhat unfortunate implications.
Here, Iain Duncan Smith has proposed magical in-utero interventions to stop kids from joining gangs. It is the logical conclusion to the “blame the parents” line; the parents are now so much to blame that it must be happening right at the moment of conception.
“I am talking about intervening when the child is conceived, not even when born.”
This has the implication of following the anti-choice line: that life begins immediately at conception. This is hardly surprising, considering IDS has a distinctly anti-choice voting agenda. I do not think this is a poor choice of words here. He genuinely wants early intervention from the moment of conception.
Now, while in utero environment may have some effect on later life, it is hardly likely that the solution proposed here will be helpful in any way: IDS wants “more male role models”. It is another subtle rehashing of the “single mothers are to blame for the riots” line.
There are three other interesting things in the proposals. Firstly, IDS is falling over himself to not appear like a misogynist, repeating over and over that it’s actually gangs that are misogynistic, and that his proposal to blame women for their children’s behaviour is absolutely fine and dandy.
Second is the outright admission that for something so important, the government is actually not going to bother trying to spend any extra money on the solution:
“There is a lot of money being spent on families and estates but it is dysfunctional money that goes to solve only short-term problems.”
They are absolving responsibility here. Shifting around, looking as though they are Doing Something. when in fact they’re just rehashing rhetoric and not bothering investing in evidence-based interventions.
Finally, it just doesn’t make any goddamn sense. In the rush to blame the parents, IDS has confused himself hugely. Sometimes the gangs are the problem; sometimes parents. I think he thinks parents are responsible for children joining gangs. It’s hard to tell.
Essentially, what is happening here is that Iain Duncan Smith is spraying his blame-gun around indiscriminately. He doesn’t want to bear any responsibility for riots caused by poverty caused by the government of which he is a part. And so, nonsensically, he absolves responsibility.
It is the norm for this government. It will have real implications for generations.