Saturday, March 13, 2010

New Children's Commissioner Is Childless

Maggie Atkinson

Born in Barnsley, Dr Atkinson studied at Cambridge University.

She taught English and drama for 10 years before moving into a national training and advisory role on the national curriculum in the late 1980's.

She became director of children's services in Gateshead in 2003.

She was president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services until March 2008, and is currently chair of the National Expert Group on the Children's Workforce and national chair for the new Centre of Excellence in Outcomes.

She is married with two adult stepchildren.

Ms Atkinson has just replaced the unlamented Al Aynsley Green as Children's Commissar for England. Appointed apparently as a non-campaigner by Ed Balls (who must have one of the most annoying voices in politics, btw), she's opened up in fine style by announcing that the Bulger killers shouldn't have been prosecuted :

“The age of criminal responsibility in this country is ten — that’s too low, it should certainly be moved up to 12. In some European countries it’s 14. People may be offenders but they are also children. Even the most hardened of youngsters who have committed some very difficult crimes are not beyond being frightened.”
I like that 'difficult'. Seems to have been all too easy for Thompson and Venables (among others).

“What they did was exceptionally unpleasant and the fact that a little boy ended up dead is not something that the nation can easily forget."
"Ended up" ? Any human agency involved in that, or was it an act of God ? "Exceptionally unpleasant" ? I'd use that phrase to describe something like a 10-year old defecating in the school book cupboard (which somebody did do at my primary school - the teacher burst into tears), not abduction, torture, sexual assault and murder.

It is wrong, Dr Atkinson insists, to describe a child as evil. “None of us is born a good person or an evil person. The backgrounds from which we come, and whether we are nurtured and secure, will shape our character. The adults who role-model for us — or don’t — will change who we become, for better or worse. I’m far more a believer in nurture than nature.”
They're depraved on account of they're deprived !

Now that's true up to a point - most of the disastrous kids come from disaster homes. But (alas) lots of kids are brought up by their lone mothers, and some of those lone mothers are alcoholic, and some of those lone mothers' kids run wild - yet not all of them kill toddlers. Robert Thompson and Jon Venables shared their upbringing with brothers and sisters, and they've managed not to abduct and kill any little ones. Why did Robert and Jon ?

Ms Atkinson, as a believer in the Blank Slate, is a follower of the Utopian Vision - otherwise she'd never have got the job.

By strange chance, a week or so before another childless leftie blogger of a certain age had bemoaned the evil tabloids and their punitive agenda, agreeing with the sentiment :
"Whatever Venables has done he will still need our support."
Prompting Laban to respond :

Shorter Leftie Blogger : “If it wasn’t for those nasty tabloids, no one would ever hate people who abduct and kill toddlers for fun”.

I think we can cut this more simply. The people who feel visceral loathing for Thompson and Venables are called ‘parents’, and every one of them has

a) experienced that awful hole in the stomach when your little one goes missing in the shopping centre – and it happens so easily! – and you find them after seconds or minutes of panic, but that sick feeling is not ever forgotten …
b) seen a shot or video of a little figure tottering through the mall, trustingly holding the hand of the boy who will torture and kill him.

The people who don’t feel that are called ‘non-parents’.

Our game, our rules. In an ideal world only parents would be allowed to vote on any issues affecting children.

We lost our youngest once at Knutsford Services northbound on a dark Friday night. Not a good place to lose a small child. Running from one cashier to another :

"Have you seen a little girl - she's three - in a pink dress ?"

You never forget the feeling even though I can't, thank God, reproduce it in my head. It's too physical. It's a feeling Maggie Atkinson will never know - which is why, in a sane world, her views on child killers would carry slightly less authority than Jon Venables' mother's views - or any mother's views.