In this case maybe ‘Nanny State’ has a point

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Nobody likes to be told what to do, particularly when it is the Government doing the telling.

Remember the fuss which greeted the introduction of the five-a-day policy? Many newspaper column inches and hours of radio phone-ins were dedicated to the subject, with many decrying the interference from the so-called Nanny State.

Here we are, 11 years after the Department of Health told us what we should be sticking down our throats if we wanted to avoid the ignominy of being branded a social pariah, not necessarily sticking to the recommendation, but acutely aware of what the healthy ‘standard’ is.

Don’t get me wrong, I was as indignant as the next man when the state’s publicity machine began telling us precisely how much fruit and veg to eat, but now I see those Whitehall health zealots had a point. Not that I often make much practical use of any healthy living advice.

But I don’t require the benefit of hindsight to see that two examples of, what some will inevitably see as, the Nanny State at work are actually much needed interventions.

When the House of Lords last week agreed with a Labour proposal to make it illegal for parents, or indeed any adults to smoke in a car carrying children, there were some that argued that it was a step too far.

One of the naysayers was Deputy PM Nick Clegg, himself known to enjoy a crafty fag or two – although there is no suggestion he sparks up a Marlboro Light when ferrying the kids to school in his Prius.

Perhaps Clegg and those in agreement with him have a point – parenting shouldn’t be ‘sub-contracted’, that mums and dads are the only people who know what is best for their little darlings.

But there are safeguards to supposedly prevent a range of abuses against children, so why shouldn’t there be a law to stop parents from potentially damaging their kids just so they can exercise their civil liberties? The joke is they probably all adhere to the seatbelt law – after all they want to ensure they are safe.

I would ban smoking in all vehicles – is sparking up and then smoking a fag at the wheel any less of a distraction than a mobile phone?

Then there was the news that an unnamed council was pursuing a case against a mother whose daughter, now aged six, suffered brain damage which, it is being argued, was caused by the woman drinking while the child was in the womb. It is being predicted that, if the local authority wins its case, it will become a crime for pregnant women to drink beyond recommended guidelines. It may enrage many but if any pregnant woman even considers harming their unborn child they don’t have the right to be called mum.