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.


We are holding our annual fundraising appeal to try and raise £35,000 to continue and develop Bella Caledonia. If you enjoy this site we need your support to continue.

We can’t continue without more of our readers supporting us.

The money will go towards developing Bella as a platform for writers, filmmakers and artists, something that no-one else is doing in Scotland.

Please go here and make a donation. 

Thank you.