Tuesday, 28 May 2013

We salute Jo Swinson, the childless government minister who feels she has the right to tell us what to say to our kids

Parents should stop telling their children they look beautiful because it places too much emphasis on appearance and can lead to body confidence issues later in life, Jo Swinson, the women’s minister, has claimed.
Daily Telegraph, 28th May

Bring Bring! Bring Bring!

“Hello, Jo Swinson.”

“Oh, hi, Jo. We haven’t met, but I wanted to suggest that you eat fewer cream buns, cut back on the booze, sleep on the your left side, floss your teeth regularly, never skip breakfast, take up jogging, read the latest Booker prize winner, make more of an effort to keep in touch with your old friends and think about buying something really sexy to wear in bed…”

“Look, you grossly impertinent man – what makes you think how I live my life is any of your damned business?”

“Oh, sorry – I thought you were keen on obnoxious busybodies lecturing other people on what they should do in the privacy of their own homes. After all, haven’t you just ordered parents not to praise their children’s appearance in case it makes them too body-conscious?”

“That’s entirely different! After all, I am the Minister for Women…”

“And you imagine this gives you the right to tell them what they’re allowed to say to their children?”

“Well, yes, it does. As their minister, I’m in charge of women, in a caring, helpful sort of way, of course.”

“You’re not – you’re a meaningless, silly little Lib Dem politician who’s been given a meaningless, silly little job in order to fill up you’re party’s ministerial quota in the coalition government - and, of course, because you're a woman and you're young. Unless they’re actually breaking the law, how the people of this country conduct their personal lives is absolutely none of your concern.”

“I’m simply trying to help parents do a better job of raising their children.”

“Who are you to say what’s the best way of raising children? Parents have been managing this without your help for countless millennia.”

“Well, they could do it better. Don’t you want to help create a better society?”

“Better according to who? And what gives you – a childless woman – any insight into parenting?”

“I’m advised by experts who’ve done an awful lot of research in this field.”

“What field? Life? And what are these experts expert at?”

“Families. Relationships. Parenting…”

“You can’t be an expert at those things – we all just do them, and sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t.”

“Of course they’re experts – they have diplomas and PhDs and some of them are doctors and they sit on committees and have letters after their name…”

“But so do you – you have the letters M and P after your name. And you’re evidently utterly clueless. Look, you’re only 33, you’ve been married for just over two years, and you don’t have any kids. If you and your husband can manage it, given you’re both no doubt frightfully important and busy and ambitious, why not go away, produce four or five kids (if you don't know how to manage it, there are literally millions of experts you can consult), raise those children, and then come back and give us your thoughts on the subject of parenting. If you have anything vaguely interesting to tell us, we might listen. In the meantime, mind your own bloody business and sodding well leave us alone!

“Gosh, I'd never thought of it that way. You’re right of course. I will resign immediately and keep my trap shut for the next twenty years.”

“Excellent. And remember what I said about the sexy nightwear.”

"No, I won't. Thank you so much. Would you like to be a key member of my department's new Family Relationships committee? You could be our expert on the bleeding obvious."


  1. OMG.

    Come on, Scott, even you can't be that old.

    I just have one word to say to you – "apps".

    That's what Jo's talking about. Apps. Parenting apps. Every sort of app.

    She's the minister in charge of midata and midata is going to make all your decisions for you now, including whether to praise your son.

    It's all explained in Identity providers – the electronic Mary Poppinses. Not sure what to wear on holiday? Ask your app.

    You are an object now, in the quantified self space, whether you know it or not.

    I suspect that Jo doesn't really believe she knows how to bring children up. The worry is, though, that she may believe that an app could know. She may entertain that possibility.

    1. Sorry, I know I'm behind the times.

      Apropos midata, I read an article the other day in Business Insider, entitled "Chinese hackers stole plans for dozens of critical US weapons systems" (here: http://www.businessinsider.com/china-hacked-us-military-weapons-systems-2013-5), which made me slightly dubious about the likelihood of all our personal data stored in a cloud remaining utterly safe from prying eyes (apart from those of the government, of course). I assume we won't have the same level in place as the most powerful military on the planet employs?

    2. DERA, the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency that inspired Ian Fleming's Q, became QinetiQ some time back. They get big contracts in the UK obviously and in the US.

      The allegedly Chinese alleged hackers stole the designs of the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin and the designs for the remote-controlled bomb disposal robot from QinetiQ.

      According to Tuesday's Times, they've also got the designs for the advanced Patriot missile (presumably from Raytheon), and the Black Hawk helicopter and the Littoral Combat ship.

      Also the "top-secret blueprints" for the Australian intelligence service's new building.

      While there is a certain amount of support for your assumption, see for example the playful verdict of one US defence contractor whose security systems were taken to pieces by Anonymous – "When it comes to cyber security QinetiQ couldn’t grab their ass with both hands" – you should remember that the UK's cybersecurity budget of £650 million is in the safe and experienced not to say expert hands of Francis Maude at the Cabinet Office.

      Even now, in some QinetiQ bunker in Penge, I can see Mr Maude and Ms Swinson gingerly trying out the UK's prototype cybersecurity app, which repeatedly sends the message to the enemy "you are beautiful", "you are perfect", thereby undermining their confidence and causing the invasion to fail in a catastrophic nervous breakdown.

    3. With the passing of the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 (ERA13?), from the summer of 2014 onwards we shall all be able to manage our own registration details on-line, using secure links to a trusted third party in the cloud.

      What could possibly go wrong?

      This could, for a start. When the Washington DC Board of Elections and Ethics (a rum pair, to be sure) developed a new on-line voting system so that soldiers overseas could vote, they asked the University of Michigan to see if they could crack the security on the system. Which of course they did, causing voting machines to play the University of Michigan fight song (something to do with baseball) whenever a vote was submitted.

      A word in the right ear and perhaps you could get Mr Maude's (for it is he, again) registration app to play one of the Fulminators' raunchier ditties?

  2. Mr Charrington29 May 2013 at 09:17

    There should be a 'telescreen'in every room,but for families not for proles.

    1. Perhaps the government could massage the jobless statistics by employing proles to monitor our activities via those screens.

      I actually wrote a post three years ago suggesting the government place a social worker in every family's home (at that family's expense, of course) to let Mum and Dad (or Dad and Dad or Mum and Mum) know when they were making child-rearing errors or being politically incorrect. The Scots have now come up with a proposal to assign a social worker to every child born in their Socialist Republic, so my own modest proposal will probably be implemented within ten or twenty years.

  3. The most irritating female in current politics is Maria Miller. Blandness made flesh. [Harriet Harman comes a close second]. The most revolting woman is, of course, the great glistening chocolate blancmange, Dian Abbot. Jo Swinney does not really matter because she will be gone and forgotten in 2015 when Yvette Cooper will be running riot. No doubt abley assisted by the glistening-eyed serial bum-hunter... [ That's enough. Ed. Thankyou].

    1. Diane Abbott, who is - amazingly - the Shadow Public Health Minister (!!!), gave a talk earlier this month about the "crisis of masculinity". She mentioned that more men commit suicide than women and are increasingly relying on Viagra. I'm not surprised, as I only have to hear Ms Abbott's voice and I feel a powerful urge to top myself. As for the connection between her frequent public appearances and the increasing reliance on Viagra - well, you get the point (or not).

  4. Shadow Public Health Minister. How to send the spirits plummeting in four words. See also Eddie Izzard's Mandela Marathons.

    1. "I want to say thank you for Nelson Mandela for existing."

      Almost lost my dinner when the former comedian (Izzard, not Mandela) uttered those emetic sentiments.

      In the old days, comedians who lost the ability to make people laugh used to take to the bottle or agree to do a series on ITV. Now they swim the Channel or run marathons for cherridy. I suppose it's an improvement. Just.

  5. Is this the end of a rogue trader's dishonest day’s work?
    6.30am: Hermione Smith, Domestic Superspy woke up. The first thing that caught her eye was her most treasured possession: a signed, framed photograph of her heroine, former business minister Jo Swinson. Thanks to her influence, Hermione’s life had been transformed ...

    “We had no idea that increasing the price of things made any difference,” a junior minister had explained ...

    1. C.f. Euphobic? Then try chrematism
      ... Which brings me to my quote of 2006. One of Britain's leading experts on tax credits was asked why the government got into such a pickle in failing to claw back overpayments. 'Simple,' was the reply. 'New Labour didn't realise that the poor have no money.'

  6. Jo Swinson, after a brief absence, back on our screens, now offering people the chance to empower themselves by signing up to midata.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    According to Mydex, one of the key players, it could be fatal.