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4 June 1996

Child's Play 3 - A Horror Story

Danni Hannington, from the Schools Campaign Against Militarism is 17, and proud of it; loitering with intent, late at night she is opposed to curfews, checks and controls.

Join Danni on Sunday 9 June at 16:00 BST (after church and before the curfew) in the chat rooms to discuss the Labour Party's latest loony anti-freedom plan.

The British media has been full of stories about dangerous children recently. Teachers have threatened to go on strike over students they cannot control. Some parents have even withdrawn their children from schools where others allegedly menace them. Jack Straw, the Labour Party's shadow home secretary and self-appointed moral guardian, has come up with a plan.

One evening, while driving home from a late night at the office, he became overcome with concern for children he saw roaming the streets. All too aware of the public's fear of crime, and especially youth crime, he came upon the idea of imposing a 9 pm curfew to be imposed with the help of local government, the police and local community groups.

Straw's idea is hardly original - it is precisely what US president Bill Clinton has just proposed in America. Ignoring for a moment his unhealthy obsession with the activities of children, we know Straw hates those who live a lot of their lives outdoors. Previous ideas of his have included attacks on 'squeegee merchants' and the homeless. This latest scheme, represents an insidious attack on the lives of ordinary people and a harmful increase in the authorities' ability to regulate all our lives.

Straw's curfew is also an attack on parents. But only those who fail to meet his idealised view of society. It is unlikely that the streets which will be monitored are leafy, middle class suburbs. It is also unlikely that children being driven home from scout meetings, riding lessons, elocution lessons and the like will be picked up. It will be the streets of housing estates, where amenities are at a minimum and so-called loutish behaviour is the norm. These are the streets and children that Jack Straw is paying so much attention to.

Children are at the forefront of many new attempts to control society.

Children provide a perfect excuse to intervene in the lives of many people. If parents cannot control their kids, who can argue against the super-parent state doing it for them? Panic after panic has been created about children's activities. Virtually every childhood activity has been criminalised. Things that Straw did (or, if he didn't, he should have been doing) like what used to be called scrumping apples, or joining gangs and fighting other gangs, trying to make some cash, have now become criminal activities. It is as if growing up is now a criminal act.

Of course, the real threat to children and what's really in their way are precisely the controls and curfews that Straw is proposing. Whatever his reasons, this will make sure everybody else grows up as uptight and fun-hating
as Jack Straw. Let's take a stand, on the streetcorner after 9pm.
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