The Little Republic of Rulemaking

In the last few days we’ve exposed the networks operating to lobby against the revision of Scots Law that allows children to be smacked by their parents under what is termed “Justifiable Assault”.

Some people are upset by this. It seems to represent to them a totemic shift. The shriek of outrage at the idea that the rights of a child might take precedence over the right to hit a child has been loud and clear.

One such is Brendan O’Neill of the LM Network who you can read frothing at the mouth in the Spectator here (‘In defence of smacking‘).

Seeming to delve deep into cliche corner O’Neill argues that “smacking is an act of love” and “I was smacked as a child. And damn I needed it.”

But it’s the Scottish Government that is the real target of O’Neill’s anger as he loses it, much in the way he describes his raging “traditionalist” fathers:

“Scotland is fast becoming the most strident, unforgiving nanny state in the West. A world leader in the policing of people’s beliefs and lifestyles” – and, in full-flight: “…now this little republic of rulemaking plans to ban parents from smacking their kids.”

Poor Brendan is concerned about the effect of this protective legislation:

“The consequences of the bill will be dire. Loving parents will suffer. The stressed-out mum trying to manage four kids as she negotiates the aisles of Asda and then finds herself lashing out at one of them: grass her to the cops. The traditionalist father who adores his children more than life itself and thinks a smack on the legs is a preferable form of punishment to plonking them on a chair for 15 minutes: drag him to court. The mother who just about stops her boy from running into the road and is so determined to let him know he has just done an incredibly dangerous thing that she clips him round the ear… what if we witness that? Dial 999?”

Of course the law change will do none of the things O’Neill suggests. As Children in Scotland’s Chief Executive Jackie Brock puts it:

“Children are still the only group not to be protected by law from being hit. Every parent should have the right to discipline their child, but there are certain circumstances and acts that can never be tolerated, and physical violence against a child is one of these.” 

Or as the Children and Young People’s Commissioner put it:

“Assaulting a child for the purposes of punishment should always be against the law. Scotland’s current law is untenable in international human rights law terms.”

But what O’Neill is really complaining about is the idea that the Scottish Government has a social policy and a legal system and the ability to update and innovate its own law:

“What we have in Scotland — and which we might soon have across the UK, if campaigners get their way — is the imposition of parenting diktats, the use of legal pressure to force every parent in the land to raise their kids in a way that the cultural elite approves of. It is an attack on parental sovereignty and familial privacy.”

“Familial privacy”, there’s an interesting concept.

But so too is his idea of children:

“Children are different. They are immature, rash, untrustworthy. They need boundaries. Some parents enforce those boundaries with a slap.”

From a smack to a slap in one step.

The language is telling: “Children are untrustworthy”.

I think we might need a shrink.

& talk of “cultural elites” is straight out of the Trump/Farage songbook.

I think we are one step away from these traditionalist parents needing to “take back control.”

It’s funny the Spectator publishing a Marxist isn’t it? It’s almost as if he’s not at all what he seems.

In fact, Spiked Watch have a handy guide to the process of what they call The Spiked Online Recipe for  Pound Shop Contrarians (right wing deceptive PR) here.

For more on the group see also LM Network in the News here.

You might say – who cares? These people are marginal and O’Neill is a rent-a-quote hack. But this group is influential and has airtime.

They also have a special focus on young people, children and schools. None of it is good.

They were instrumental in getting Milo Yiannopoulos to give a talk at the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Kent (see Milo at Langton here).

Since 2002 they ran the (now defunct) front-group Parents with Attitude headed by LM associate Jennie Bristow, which now operates barely as a Twitter handle We are parents who can think for ourselves” – retweeting Frank Furedi and libertarian clickbait like this. 

As Suzanne Moore writes of the LM groups leader Frank Furedi:

It takes a special kind of man who, while the nation is still reeling in shock at the mounting revelations of the scale of abuse of children by a “light entertainer”, quickly dashes out a book on our dumb propensity for moral panics. But then Frank Furedi is no ordinary academic. He is a predatory sociologist whose main aim is to reverse the self-absorbed narratives of the bourgeoisie.”

Moore concludes:

“The morality of using a scandal about the sexual abuse of children to épater le bourgeois and talk of a crisis of authority is fairly dubious. This book has little to tell us about Savile or the culture he thrived in, never mind the one we find ourselves in now. It’s a Furedi fantasy, rehashed and overspun. As pure sociology it appears under-researched, with little evidence to support many of its grander claims. And there is something missing, as far as I could see – any empathy whatsoever with the powerless.”

That is the bottom line here – the LM network – whether its expressed as “libertarian parenting”, a rant on Spectator, a dodgy Institute of Ideas conference or a sermon on the Moral Maze has no empathy whatsoever with the powerless.

Far from being some weird authoritarian outlier, Scotland is in fact coming into line with most of mainland Europe. In fact, the rUK will be one of only four EU countries that have not committed to legal reform over the physical punishment of children.

Viva the Little Republic of Rulemaking.


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Comments (24)

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  1. Mrs Eleanor Ferguson says:

    My father made my brother and I wait till he was ready to smack us, usually he had his meal first. I have never forgiven him, for that and for other acts of cruelty too. To my shame,I also smacked my son -everyone did in those days, but regret it and am very glad that it is to be banned. Like driving without seatbelts, smoking in enclosed places, not picking up after your dog etc, it will soon seem unthinkable that we actually thought it was ok to smack our kids. Surely that is the aim, not to criminalise parents as some people seem to think. I am proud to live in a country where the government is constantly seeking to improve people’s lives, unlike the Westminster Goverment which seems intent on causing misery.

  2. David McCann says:

    Ah the Victorian values brigade are alive and well!
    What’s wrong with the odd slap here and there, and what’s wrong with sending a few of them up the odd chimney to bring back a bit of discipline!

  3. Conall Boyle says:

    And from The Daily Mail, the (sometimes) intelligent Peter Hitchens gives it ‘six of the best’

    It’s a dreary save the family, save paternalism diatribe.

    [I say sometimes, because he’s bright enough to see through the propaganda of “Russia did it”, although hates Catalan/Scottish independence, and has a weird view that cannabis is the Devil, causing most so-called terrorist outrages.]

  4. Fay Kennedy says:

    Well done Scotland and more of it. The brutality that so many of my demographic experienced in childhood is so wounding that it never really heals and worse it gets repeated. Like Eleanor I am still in recovery and feel most grateful that am around to see this progressive legislation in place.

  5. DAVID SMART says:

    Smacking never done me any good…
    Imagine that in 100 years time it is shown that violent assault and murder is virtually unknown because of the abhorrence of children being smacked or “given a slap. ”
    Maybe one day the eating of animals from the industrial farms we humans created will also be seen to be disgusting…. but then that’s another story.

  6. Jack Collatin says:

    ‘Didn’t do me any harm’, ‘pines a burly big lout smacking his three year old for ‘wandering off’ in a supermarket.
    Following the logic of the pro smackers, that assaulting a child is justified as a method of control and instilling discipline, I therefore have free reign to smack someone whom I witness chucking litter on the street, or scratching their name on a Perspex bus shelter wind breaker?
    I was flogged by teachers in the ’50’s and ’60’s, lashed with an HB X leather belt for running in the corridor, or stumbling over my words in reciting a pre-learned bit of Shakespeare.
    We instinctively kept these savage beatings from our parents, who were two of the most gentle folk the Chief ever put on this earth.
    It is barbaric, and any idiot who wants to attack a child these days should be chucked in the pokey, preferably in a holding pen with a bunch of burly big bullies.

  7. Frank says:

    I take issue with Bella trying to smear Spiked because of it’s Marxist past – So what Bella?

    Spiked is an informative read and intellectually it comes from a left wing and sometimes right wing libertarian philosophical perspective. I disagree with a lot of Spiked (in fact most of it!) but it’s a good read. Spiked Watch hasn’t laid a glove on it and looks like a smear op.

    Try and stick to the debates at hand instead of smearing political opponents.

    1. I have no query with its Marxist past. I have issue with its lack of transparency, its dubious funding, its faux contrarian predictability, its anti-environemntalism, its use of false names and its deeply reactionary politics. I’m not smearing anyone – just pointing out the facts. If you’d like to challenge any of this feel free.

      1. Frank says:

        It’s up to you to provide evidence for the claims you make and hitherto you have not done so. Beyond the fact that you politically disagree with Spiked (ME too!!) you seem to be trying to suggest there is something more sinister going on. Maybe it’s time to provide some concrete evidence and by evidence I don’t mean a link to another website.

        1. Ian Clark says:

          There were links to a number of articles and sites in the original article. On some of these sites there were further links to relevant articles. One of the articles titled ‘The faction that fools the world’ was by Mike Small and contained supporting material.

          Starting from the original article above (and what – by chance – I learned last week of Brendan O’Neill and Spiked Online), I have build up a limited picture of its ethos and affiliations. The picture painted by Mike in the article and through the various links provides sufficient justification for bringing to our attention the possible motivations and agendas which may lie behind the criticism of the proposed change to the legislation.

          In principle I agree with you about providing hard evidence. But I thought the links provided some evidence. Surely though it is unrealistic to expect Bella to have to produce evidence of the type you demand without recourse to links to other sites? There’s always going to be a practical limit on justifications. Then there’s the question of maintaining readers’ attention. Links to other sites and a willingness on our part to question and to further investigate seems a reasonable compromise.

          1. I’m very happy to provide more evidence about the allegations about the LM network, all of which is in the public domain. There are three main allegations about them that I’ve put forward, that they frequently use false names, that they operate a series of front groups and that they are funded by shady groups, some disclosed, some undisclosed.

            False or cadre names: Claire Fox operates under the name Claire Foster, Frank Furedi works under the names of Frank Richards, James Heartfield was born as James Hughes, and may in fact be Will Deighton, Helene Guldberg goes under the name Helene Gold. It goes on and on. Its quite common for writers to have pseudonyms but almost everyone associated with this group has a false name. Why would that be?

            Front Groups: here are some of the groups that have either operated out of the same building or with the same people over time. They appear and disappear with such rapidity its difficult to keep account:

            Africa Direct 1995-1997
            Campaign Against Militarism 1993-1998
            Channel Cyberia 1996-1999
            Chew On It Productions 2000 (inc. 2006) (dormant)
            Culture Wars 1999-2013
            Engaging Cogs 2006-2007
            Families for Freedom 1996-1999
            Feminists for Justice 1998-2000
            Freedom & Law Active 1997
            Genderwatch 1996-1999
            Global Futures launched 2002 (dormant)
            Inter-Generation launched 2009 {dormant}
            Internet Freedom 1998-2006
            Libero 1997-2000
            Litigious Society launched 1999 by Global Futures
            London International Research Exchange 1994-1998
            Maverick Club 1998-2002

            These ones are or were until recently still active …

            Academics for Academic Freedom 2007 together with Student Academics For Academic Freedom 2007 – Unqualified free speech
            Audacity 2000 – Construction
            Big Potatoes 2010 – Innovation
            Centre for Parenting Culture Studies 2007 – Academic network
            East London Science School 2013 – School
            Fans For Freedom 2012 – Anti-regulation
            Freedom in a Puritan Age 2009 – online magazine (loose association)
            Future Cities Project 2006 (together with Bookshop Barnies 2005 and ManTownHuman 2008) – Planning/ architecture
            Generation Youth Issues 2007 – Children and young people’s peer relations
            Hands Off The Human Footprint! 2009 – 2010 (inactive) anti-environmentalist
            Institute of Ideas 2000 (together with Battle of Ideas 2005, Debating Matters 2003 and Global Uncertainties Schools Network 2010) – Debating fora
            Manifesto Club 2006 – Anti-regulation
            Novo Argumente 1992 – German online magazine (sister organisation)
            Parents With Attitude 2002 – Debating website
            Pro-Choice Forum 1997 – Abortion studies
            Salons (Regional) 2005 – Debating fora
            Spiked 2000 (together with Young Journalists Academy 2006 and free speech NOW! 2014) – online magazine
            Take a Liberty (Scotland) 2010 – Anti-regulation
            WORLDwrite 1991 (together with WORLDbytes 2008) – Current affairs/ media training


            As Powerbase (public interest investigations) has it:

            “None of the organisations associated with the LM network provides a breakdown of funders and how much they have provided. We do know, however, that they are funded by corporations that fund think tanks dedicated to promoting their interests in the political and media spheres. For example, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer has funded Spiked, the Institute of Ideas’ Battle of Ideas in 2005 and 2006, the Debating Matters programme and two organisations with which the LM network has connections, the Science Media Centre and Sense About Science. Both of the latter are engaged in managing debate about scientific issues.

            As well as funding the LM network, Pfizer funds free market think tanks such as the US-based Competitive Enterprise Institute and Cato Institute, the Netherlands-based Edmund Burke Foundation, the Brussels based Centre for the New Europe (which also does work on climate funded by Exxon), the UK’s Social Market Foundation and the American Council on Science and Health, a deceptive front group. [14] Pfizer is a member of one of the most important global corporate lobby groups, the International Chamber of Commerce. [15] What’s in it for Pfizer? One clue is in the topics covered by the Debating Matters schools debating competition which include such subjects of interest to the pharmaceutical industry as: the value or otherwise of complementary medicine, NHS rationing of expensive drugs, clinical trials in developing countries, fertility treatments, genetic screening, anti-aging treatments, genetic engineering and animal experimentation.

            BT is another major sponsor of the LM network. BT sponsored the Battle of Ideas in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In addition, then BT subsidiary O2 sponsored five Spiked Debates during 2005, 2006 and 2007[16] while another was sponsored by Orange. The Mobile Operators Association is also on record as having funded Spiked. In return, BT/ O2 and other operators had the opportunity via Spiked to challenge public concerns about the perceived effects on health, child protection and the environment of mobile phones.

            Other corporations and corporate lobby groups that have funded the LM network are Cadbury Schweppes, IBM, Novartis, Orange, O2, The Mobile Operators Association and the Society of the Chemical Industry. [17] These sources of funding are typical of lobbying or PR firms. Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest lobby firms also fund the network. Hill and Knowlton is one of the most controversial lobbying and PR firms in the world, having famously been behind the deception on the incubator baby story in Kuwait in 1990/91. It also worked for a long list of controversial corporations, including some from the oil, tobacco, pharma, fast food, and GM industry. It worked too for repressive regimes, including Egypt, Haiti, Indonesia, Morocco, Turkey – and China after the Tiananmen square massacre. Along with PR firm Luther Pendragon (which has worked for the Hinduja brothers, Macdonalds, Pepsi, the GM industry and others), Hill and Knowlton has put up cash for LM network events.”

            Marxists you say?

            As George Monbiot has written:

            “his year, the avowedly anti-imperialist LM began running articles by Roger Bate of the Institute for Economic Affairs, which advocates, among other interesting ideas, that African countries should be sold to multinational corporations in order to bring “good government” to the continent. In the Against Nature series, LM’s contributers rubbed shoulders with Larry Craig, a far right Republican senator and fundraiser for the raving “Alliance for America”; Julian Simon, who was Ronald Reagan’s favourite economist, and Michael Gough, who, like Simon, belongs to a hard-right libertarian think-tank called the Cato Institute. All maintained an identical political position, lining up to identify the liberals and lefties of the environmental movement as covert Nazi sympathisers.”

            “As you wade through back issues of Living Marxism, you can’t help but conclude that the magazine’s title is a poor guide to its contents. LM contains little that would be recognised by other Marxists or, for that matter, by leftists of any description. On one issue after another, there’s a staggering congruence between LM’s agenda and that of the far-right Libertarian Alliance. The two organisations take identical positions, for example, on gun control (it is a misconceived attack on human liberty), child pornography (legal restraint is simply a Trojan horse for the wider censorship of the Internet), alcohol (its dangers have been exaggerated by a new breed of “puritan”), the British National Party (it’s unfair to associate it with the murder of Stephen Lawrence; its activities and publications should not be restricted), the Anti-Nazi League (it is undemocratic and irrelevant), tribal people (celebrating their lives offends humanity’s potential to better itself; the Yanomami Indians are not to be envied but pitied) animal rights (they don’t have any), and global warming (it’s a good thing).”

          2. another Frank says:

            Possible motives for opposing this legislation? How about common sense? Watching the news the other night they were interviewing people on the street and asking them what they thought of this legislation. One woman replied – “They banned the belt in schools and now the weans run the schools.” Regardless of O’Neill’s political background he has the Scottish government sized up correctly and I know a quite a few nationalist who no longer vote SNP for that reason.

            What is more, if anyone challenged this legislation I suspect it would fail on the same grounds as the proposed “Named Person” legislation failed – the government meddling in what is essentially a family matter. You should also see Art.2 1st Protocol ECHR – the right to have your children educated according to parents beliefs rather than the State’s beliefs. (I think that is the correct reference.)

          3. I suspect it wouldn’t ‘another Frank’ – equal protection legislation is widespread across Europe. Like in so many areas its just Britain that’s a bit weird…

          4. Jim Bennett says:

            another Frank, you say: “if anyone challenged this legislation I suspect it would fail on the same grounds as the proposed “Named Person” legislation failed – the government meddling in what is essentially a family matter.”
            err…no it didn’t!
            The Named Person legislation has been delayed because of technical reasons relating to information sharing between professionals; nothing whatsoever to do with “family matters”.

    2. Frank says:

      Sorry Bella but you have not really proved anything here; so, Spiked has a lot of corporate sponsors and links with right wing think tanks; Big deal! It’s authors use false names and appear to be involved in a lot of front work – again so what -that’s true of most political organisations (think SWP).

      I don’t want to be seen as the guy defending Spiked because I think its politics are reactionary especially on issues such as Brexit. But Spiked does provide an interesting space and platform for analysis – hence the reason people read it. I’d prefer if you stuck to the political disagreements.

      1. Ian Clark says:

        Frank you seem to have adopted an approach to debate which is modelled on the Black Knight from Monty Python. Either that or you’re an idiosyncratic troll. Either way I think your time is up.

      2. Wow. Okay.

        You asked for evidence. I gave you truckloads.

        If you don’t think there’s anything dodgy going on here – if you think its perfectly normal for dozens of people to work together using false names and under dozens and dozens of front groups then … if you dont think its odd that a supposedly Marxist group engage in far-right politics … I don’t really know what to say to you …

        1. Frank says:

          Spiked is not a Marxist group; it’s probably more right-wing libertarian than Marxist; LM was not Marxist as the term is commonly understood. But that’s not the issue.

          For me, if you believe that ‘something dodgy going on’ you need to say specifically what that is? I’m genuinely interested and that’s what I meant by evidence. For information (Ian Clarke) I’m not trolling and the debate needs to be situated within the context of a cultural war which has broken out in universities between Spiked and left wing groups. For example, I’m an academic and a group of students tried to ban Spiked from our faculty and argued that Spiked speakers should be ‘no platformed’ because they violated the universities safe spaces policy; this was very contested on campus. I have colleagues who read it regularly and know people who have been published by Spiked and related publishers who would be aghast to find out that it is a front for something sinister.

          1. I’m very well aware what Spiked is. I’ve laid out considerable evidence to support my claims. If this isn’t enough for you i don’t really know what is.

            It sounds very much to me like you are confusing the ‘no-platforming debate’ – which I make no mention of – with this actual discussion.

            You say: “I have colleagues who read it regularly and know people who have been published by Spiked and related publishers who would be aghast to find out that it is a front for something sinister” … Well as they should be …

          2. Frank says:

            The fact that Spiked has accepted corporate funding is well known Bella and Spiked openly acknowledges corporate sponsors. Similarly its authors – some of them prominent academics (and worthy of reading!) have acknowledged that they have used pseudonyms in the past- again this is not uncommon and hardly great investigative journalism because it’s already in the public domain. Yet, the list of corporate sponsors you provided is questionable; you seem to have copied and pasted links from anti-Spiked sites and in the process convinced yourself that accusations and insinuations are evidence of something more sinister; this might be enough to convince likes of Ian Clark but others will be more critical.

            You also forgot to mention that some of your accusations were disputed by Spiked and by its own readers. In addition, you failed to let your readers know that some of the websites which you copied from were set up by far-left activists with political axes to grind against Spiked; they are not independent sources but written by one side of a political war. That’s why the political wars I mentioned – sometimes referred to as culture wars, over issues such as safe spaces, identity politics and no-platforming are essential in understanding the wider context of this discussion.

          3. What would represent ‘independent sources’ in this context?

            What facts that I’ve presented are you challenging?

            In what world do ‘prominent academics’ use multiple names?

            I’m not – and have not – mentioned ‘safe spaces’ or identity politics anywhere in my article. This is a complete red herring you are introducing because you asked for evidence and I gave you it.
            Can you give examples of similar networks in which everyone has a false name?

  8. Frank says:

    I didn’t say you mentioned identity politics…I said that you cannot understand the allegations against Spiked without understanding the political context of very heated debates on campus especially in England. I cannot find any independent sources on Spiked…most of those who write have a political axe to grind and are part of the far left on campus; Spiked refers to these groups as ‘social justice warriors’. I’m sceptical of the very materials you copied and pasted from.

    The fake names are also in the public eye – see for example Claire Fox and Frank Furendi…most people who write for Spiked don’t use fake names, people like Kathryn Eccelstone spring to mind. You also didn’t mention the fact in any of your writings that Spiked denies these allegations.

    I get the impression that you are looking for publicity and also a Blog war with Spiked…

    1. Well Frank I really be bothered with this any more…

      I wrote about the unholy alliance of people working to undermine progressive social policy.

      If you think this is all great and you love Spike the go and enjoy their wonderful site and their lovely open politics.

      1. another Frank says:

        Jim Bennett should read the Supreme Court’s judgement. The “technical matters” he refers to were such that the the proposed law guaranteed no protection for “private and family life” and so the judgement was all about protecting the family from unwarranted State intrusion.

        The same argument holds true for chastising children – no business of the State. Under present law a parent or guardian can be prosecuted for physical abuse of a child and so there is no need for an additional law. We are saddled with politicians in all parties who, when confronted with a problem, think that a new law will solve the problem, as is all to obvious they seldom do. Unless you get to he causes of problems you end up with a tyranny ruling by fear of punishment. Very bad for democracy

        There is another angle to this “no smacking” issue. We are told that he aim is to do away with “justifiable assault.” That is a contradiction: in law assault is defined as “evil intention to injure” so you cannot have justifiable evil intention to injure. We are told that motive is the essential element of what may be a crime, that if the motive is not “evil” there is no crime. Since it is not evil to defend self or another from violence there is no assault in self defence. (ECHR art.2:2b) So, if the government abolishes this contradiction it calls “justifiable assault” will that mean that the individual will be unable to defend himself against attack? If it does then that will be contrary to his rights under the common law and under ECHR art 2:2b.

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