Friday, February 20, 2009


‘Cut Their Goolies Off’ – Balls

Though I’ve not blogged for a bit before today, bulletins from round the world have still been catching my eye – there may well be a flurry of late news at some point, but as a quickie from Valentine’s weekend, did you hear “Children’s Secretary” Ed Balls’ particularly fine example of politicians’ Daily Mail-friendly hyperbole without actually engaging his brain? In all the outcry over a thirteen-year-old dad, Mr Balls sonorously pronounced that it was “awful” and “unusual,” and that
“I want us to do everything we can as a society to make sure we keep teenage pregnancies coming down.”
Having children so early in life is no doubt a bad thing for the bodies, emotions and finances of all concerned, but while young teens should certainly be discouraged from having sex through much better information on the consequences (and at the very least on how to make it safer if they do it), some of them are always going to find a way. It’s not like it’s a new idea, is it? All that’s new is that nowadays the press are allowed to print it, and then get in a tizzy because the one example they’ve found and showered money over is proof that the entire country is breaking down (sex! It’s awful! Turn to Page 3 for more!). It isn’t. It’s just evidence that one pair of kids had more hormones than sense, which is not exactly news. Mr Balls’ pledge to “do everything we can” is as daft and out of proportion as the Labour Government’s knee-jerk overkill when they “DECLARE WAR!” on anything the Daily Hate Mail goes on about: drugs; binge; dog-fouling…

Obviously, led by the press, most politicians have been falling over themselves to say how appalling, reprehensible and unique / universal [delete as applicable] this is, despite Britain’s teenage pregnancy rate actually falling. There was a sign of hope on last night’s Question Time, though. One-of-the-most-loathsome-men-in-the-media Piers Stefan Puke-Morgan spewed out a stream of repellent authoritarian drivel, only to find that as usual he was taking the ‘popular’ out of ‘populist’ when the audience clapped less the further he raced from reality. Mr Morgan’s attempt to get on the David Cameron “Broken Britain” bandwagon was shot down in flames by Sarah Teather, who challenged the idea that Britain was in any way broken and said that she’d rather live today than in any previous time, in a more tolerant age than ever before, and got a storm of applause for it.

If you didn’t catch last week’s Any Questions on Radio Four, grab it in the few hours remaining on the iPlayer; the debate there was even more enlightening. Jonathan Dimbleby, made a prat of himself as usual, saying it was a “sombre” issue – it’s not a funeral, it’s a birth, you pompous idiot. Denis MacShane, to no-one’s surprise, couldn’t open his mouth without blaming everyone in the world except the Labour Party, having somehow missed who’s been in government for the last dozen years. Janet Street-Porter went breathtakingly off her rocker, saying that the real problem was “all these disgusting men in their sixties” having children with women in their twenties (also far from a new phenomenon). Imagine! Yes, this Morgan-a-like newspaper editor wants to almost literally infantilise women – if they fall in love with or are otherwise enamoured of older men (the famous interview line “So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” springs to mind), she thinks that’s a terrible social problem and Something Should Be Done. Well, Ms Street-Porter, grown-ups should be treated like grown-ups and allowed to make their own decisions, so it’s none of your business, you ludicrously authoritarian busybody. David Davis gave the lie to anyone who doubts “liberal Conservative” is an oxymoron, by blaming it all on sex education – despite the fact that the better-educated a country is, and particularly the better the education about sex and relationships, the later young people are likely to start having sex, and the more protected they tend to be when doing it. But the show was stolen throughout by the brilliant Jo Swinson, talking sensibly about education, contraception, confidence, self-respect and there being no standard “ideal age” to have a baby.

But despite all of those thousands of words frothing around the subject, I keep coming back to the first time I heard the story. It was on the Today Programme a week ago, and I still can’t get over my first impression of Mr Balls’
“I want us to do everything we can as a society to make sure we keep teenage pregnancies coming down,”
which I couldn’t help but instantly translate as
‘Cut their goolies off!’
A Difficult and Controversial Topic

Earlier this afternoon I wrote how the Labour Government bear an uncanny resemblance to a famous moment from Dad’s Army. On hearing Mr Balls’ promise to do anything and everything, though, I couldn’t help thinking of a famous panel discussion on Not The Nine O’Clock News, which sadly isn’t available on YouTube. But cast your mind back, and you may remember a serious examination of a difficult and controversial topic by Professor Duff of Cambridge University and Sally Barnes, community worker from the Borough of Lambeth, looking into the problem over the last few weeks. Professor Duff’s team had concerned themselves fundamentally with a statistical analysis of the problem as a whole, in tandem with and related to a psychochemical and behavioural analysis of over a thousand individual teenagers:
“And we came to the inevitable conclusion that the one course of action the authorities must take is… To cut off their goolies. Cut their goolies off!”
And Sally Barnes?
“Look, I know these kids, I’ve worked in the areas we’re talking about – round Lambeth, Lewisham – I know their problems, I know their frustrations – lack of community facilities – I know their parents… And in my opinion, Professor Duff’s suggestion that we should cut off their goolies is the only solution.”

“Absolutely. I mean, cut the goolies off! Cut them off!”

“True! Whip off the goolies.”

“Well, there we have it. Expert opinion seems to be in favour of –”

“Cutting off their goolies!”
Place your bets for the next Labour Manifesto now.

Update: Hurrah! That sketch has since become available on YouTube. Try it now (it may disappear).

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