Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Column, May 15, 2007

FOR every ill of society today you can depend on a think tank somewhere coming up with a completely unworkable solution.
Just who these brains doing the thinking are is not entirely clear, but the think tanks go by some quasi-Latin name which seems to imply a depth of thought which is absent from their utterances.
The latest brainwave is an answer to childhood obesity – or how to get fat kids off their backsides so that they leave school with some semblance of mobility and without wearing a uniform that could double as a two-man tent.
And the big idea? Ban the school run.
Brilliant, give whoever thought of it in the think tank a great, big obese cigar.
On the face if it I can see the attractions of such a policy.
Anyone who has dared to venture out on the roads at roughly 8.15-9ish will know that they take their lives in their hands every day because of parents on the school run.
Quite why legislators felt the need to ban the use of mobile phones because they are distracting to drivers while allowing harassed parents to carry children to school every morning is beyond me.
The average school run driver is a) late b) distracted by that most distracting of sources, their own children and c) very often driving a 4x4 that would give a main battle tank a run for its money in a head-on crash.
I know how distracting children can be, my own three-year-old is perfectly capable of asking the exact same question 50 times without apparently drawing breath, and he thinks it’s ok because he prefaces it with ‘Excuse me daddy’, so he is being polite after all.
By the age of 10 they will have your psychological profile down to a tee and when it comes to pushing the buttons that make you detonate from the back seat, they will be past masters.
I never had been quite able to work out why mums and dads felt the need to deliver their children to school in a 4x4 but now it’s obvious that it’s because it’s the only thing with suspension tough enough to cope with their chubby kids by the end of their school career.
The fact is the only safe way to take children to school is to herd them into a small livestock trailer – I’m sure Ifor Williams of Corwen would make something appropriate, they seem to have made very other blimmin’ trailer in the British Isles – the use of a cattle prod would be perfectly acceptable, then wend your way to school with the soothing tones of Terry Wogan and nothing else.
But, as ever, I digress. The latest notion is to ban this because kids are getting fat and the theory is they would get more exercise if they had to waddle instead of sitting in the back of the car playing with their X-Station 3 or whatever bit of electronic kit is in vogue at the moment.
Great theory. Except for the small fact that way back the government allowed parents freedom of choice in picking which school to send their offspring to.
So instead of a bracing walk to the local comp, lost of kids would face a 10-mile hike to the school chosen by their parents because its Ofsted report said it achieved excellent results (never mind the fact that because so many parents have done the same it is now overcrowded and its pupil-teacher ratio is up the Swanee and it’s about to go into special measures.)
So far from being a health-giving stroll to school, many kids would face the sort of long march last undertaken by Chairman Mao and his followers.
The second fatal flaw, quite literally, in this bright idea is that in the golden age of schooling when we all skipped tra-la-la to school, the fastest thing on the road was an Austin Montego, which, in the terrible event it should mount the kerb and head straight for you, you had a good hour or two to sidestep it.
Now if you’re not taken out by a hot hatchback driven by some moron in a baseball cap you will be mown by a 4x4 driven by a parent temporarily distracted by their child’s insistence that they really must turn round and look at what they just found in their nose.
And just how would you police this ban? With the police, who have quite enough on their plate thank you without having to pull over 4x4s to see if the parent really has stuffed their children inot the boot to beat the ban (not a bad idea, try it to see if it cuts down the distraction.)
Has anyone thought of encouraging children to play outside a bit? I know, I know, fraught with health and safety dangers, but hey, lets give it a try. I’ve heard there’s a game once played by children before it became the preserve of overpaid male models, involving a ball, two sets of posts, and teams of 20-or-so a side kicking lumps out of each other through dinnertime, called football.
Perhaps I should join a think tank.

TONY Blair’s announcement of his departure typified his whole premiership and the contrasting views you have of his record.
It came just after he had visited the Northern Ireland Assembly to see both sides of the sectarian divide working to govern the province.
I was born in 1964 and Northern Irish violence was the background to my entire childhood and most of my adult years too.
One became accustomed to the steady drip of atrocity committed by both sides and the UK mainland campaign which saw the bombing of Birmingham, Guildford, and later Warrington as well as many, many others.
There is no doubt that lasting peace in Northern Ireland is a magnificent achievement, and Blair must take credit for seizing the opportunity presented to him and building on the moves made, lets not forget, by the oft-derided Prime Minster John Major.
But then all Blair’s achievements are coloured bay what continues to go on in Iraq – a bloody mess with no sign of the violence abating. Blair and Bush got rid of a monstrous dictator, for sure, but they replaced him with a state of lawless civil war which is still extracting a monstrous toll in that country.
Blair often talks about history and whether history treats him kindly will depend on what others no do to resolve the situation in Iraq and how many more lives it costs before that country finds the same sort of peace that Blair helped bring to Northern Ireland.

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