Mr and Mrs Michael Gove have an eleven year old son. When they were invited to a literary festival in Cheltenham they decided to bring the boy with them. They stayed in a rather upmarket bed and breakfast establishment (£250 a night we are told). There was an evening event which Ma and Pa decided to attend. They left their son in the B & B, with all sorts of instructions to the staff as to how they could be contacted if there was any problem. There was no problem. The boy, and I can certainly believe this to be true knowing his father as I do, is mature for his age. He coped very well. But, much to the delight of the Mirror and Mail newspapers, a night porter at the B & B (I assume he is what we now call a “remoaner”) sneaked on the Goves. He told the Mirror that a senior Tory politician had left his eleven year old son in a B & B establishment with no one other than the staff to look after him.
The Mirror was horrified. A few hours later the Mail joined in. How could anyone leave an eleven year old boy on his own with no one other than hotel employees to safeguard him?
As you will immediately see, though the night porter was probably motivated by his political opinions, the newspapers weren’t. The Mirror and the Mail are opposites when it comes to politics. But they are firmly agreed on one thing and that is that children, however mature they may be, must never, ever, be left to fend for themselves. Goodness me, think of all those paedophiles, think of the maniacs with knives and guns who populate the tabloid pages day after day. Only the most evil parents imaginable could behave as the Goves did.
Take a deep breath. This, if you are a tabloid sentimentalist, will come as an awful shock to you. When I was eleven years old my pals and I took our tents into the woods and spent nights there with no adult anywhere in sight. There were no B & B staff to look after us. There wasn’t even a tiresome night porter to report my parents to the tabloids. We were entirely alone, shaking with fright every time we heard a tiny nocturnal creature scurrying past our tents.
Who on earth are these extraordinary tabloid journalists who insist that children should never be allowed any independence? Were they brought up quite differently from the rest of us? I suppose they must have been. No childhood adventures for them. Never, until they reached their late teens, were they allowed to be out of the sight of one or other parent. Maybe that’s why they became tabloid journalists: so they could protect other children from evil parents who think independence is quite a good thing.
In the immortal words of a man who was actually quite a good tabloid journalist, John Junor: “pass the sick bag, Alice”.