You might think that political gains for an actually fascist party would make polemicists ease up on the jackboot rhetoric, however much they dislike social workers and family law. But Peter Hitchens is a special case – someone so committed in his dislike of any state intervention in family life, he managed to turn the Baby P case into the occasion for a column on how social workers are too intrusive (well, too intrusive into the lives of married couples with children earning 30K and above).
Peter Hitchens is, basically, incredible: a writer so febrile and deluded that you can legitimately describe Christopher as the “least worst Hitchens” (which is a bit like choosing your favourite boil, but there you are). He’s also admirably shameless about his methods: everything he tells us, he writes, is intended to “scare us”.
This weekend, he instills fear by declaring that the UK is practically a totalitarian state. There are three ingredients to your triumphalist face-stamping government, apparently. Firstly, a proposal (not legislation, just a proposal) to make school attendance dependant on receiving a full programme of vaccinations. Secondly, increased monitoring of home-schoolers. Thirdly, the provison of nursery care. It’s a terrifying vision of a dystopian nightmare brought to life around us.
Oh no, wait – it’s just some policy to be discussed, with trade-offs to be made between the individual and the group. Your precious freedoms are currently intact, including the freedom to make your child vulnerable to preventable diseases and expose other people to illness too. But Hitchens obviously isn’t interested in discussing what’s necessary or effective: “I have no idea if the MMR is safe or not”, he writes. (Somewhere in Mail central, there’s a portrait of a once-competent editor which grows a little more decrepit each time a sentence like that goes to press, when it ought to have been sent back directly with the message, “Really? Then find out.”) You can never be too ignorant or too sloppy when you’re telling people that the state is coming for their children.