I'm going to leave others to rip to shreds Gordon Brown's claims on the economy and his new found belief in local Post Offices he made in his speech today. There's plenty of scope for an awful lot of shreds. Others can also comment on the number of Lib Dem policies he stole. Update: for a really good overall analysis of the speech, look at what our favourite Elephant has to say.)
I want to concentrate on one truly horrific aspect of what he said.
Over an hour on, I'm still actually shaking with shock at this sentence:
"From now on all 16 and 17 year old parents who get support from the taxpayer will be placed in a network of supervised homes"
Parents? In reality, that will be mothers, then, because they're the ones who generally claim the benefit. I don't know how much Gordon Brown knows about Biology but they don't tend to have sex on their own, or at least not the sort that results in babies being born. Here we have another crazy Labour idea which could result in the fathers of these babies carryng on life as usual while the girls they've impregnated are taken to be taught about responsibility. You couldn't make it up!
And while we're at it, does that mean that any 16/17 year old who claims either Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit, both of which are support from taxpayer, even if they have a stable home, will be dragged off to one of these "supervised homes" against their will?
I don't know whether Brown was trying to lovebomb Tom Harris MP who was the sole backbencher to call for him to go at the febrile Labour Parliamentary Party meeting after the disastrous Euro and local elections this year. Earlier this year, I had a bit of a go at Tom after he advocated what I felt was a return to the Dark Ages on this issue. At that time I felt that he was a bit of a lone voice in Labour but now it seems that Gordon Brown has morphed into Iain Duncan Smith lite too.
There are plenty reasonable, fair and effective ways to reduce teenage pregnancies - raising the self esteem and reducing the sexualisation of young women; accessible information about contraception; education for all teenagers, girls and boys. Ultimately, though, they are always going to happen - teenagers always have had sex and always will and no form of contraception is infallible. I don't think that effectively locking up young girls is a constructive way forward - in fact, it's a return to the days when unmarried mums were hidden away and whispered about, their lives ruined.
Brown's idea s a shameful, desperate play for the Daily Mail vote. I hope that enough Labour MPs have the backbone to make sure that it never becomes a reality.
The last word will go to the wise Will Howells who summed up the policy on Twitter like this: "Mothers, lock up your daughters, because if you don't we will."
UPDATE: (already) Paul Waugh has some more information on the plan. The last sentence of his piece is very scary indeed:
"I suspect the Tories will be delighted that the political space has now been carved out for them to perhaps go even further."
UPDATE: (a bit later on) I basically reported the facts and my general horror. Stephen, Jennie and Charlotte have all tackled this with great originality and persuasiveness and their posts are well worth reading.