Ignorant bully vs teenage parents
One of the many sad and pathetic things about Tom Harris MP slagging off teenage parents on his blog is that he obviously believes he is being brave by making these arguments.
Harris is a Member of Parliament earning more than 60 grand a year, his argument repeats comments which Tony Blair made a decade ago and in content and tone it regurgitates the prejudices found in most national newspapers on a daily basis. So you can see why, with allies so few in number and powerless in influence, he congratulates himself for having the courage to take on the powerful lobby group that is 16 year old girls who have children.
Having devoted a previous blog post to hurling insults at a woman with learning disabilities whose two year old son had recently been murdered, he turned his attention to teenage parents. His argument, such as it is, is that there is 'an army of teenage mothers living off the state', that this is a 'national catastrophe' and that it is 'morally wrong' for teenage girls to have children. It's not that he's got any ideas about policy changes that he'd like to see, although he is going to have a coffee with Frank Field, which I guess is nice. Instead he argues that the priority is to get away from the idea that right and wrong are meaningless and make it clear that teenage girls having children is immoral. It's an article with, by my count, two anecdotes and no facts.
He finishes by writing that, "it’s time to stop worrying about how people’s feelings might be hurt if we question the choices they’ve made. Because very often, those choices are wrong. And it’s about time we said so."
Fine by me.
I think Harris is assuming that people who disagree with him are uncomfortable with the idea of morality, of right and wrong. Some people might be, I'm not.
It is morally wrong for a Labour MP to write this kind of garbage. I don't know and I don't care if it is a genuine reflection of deeply held views or if it is a way for him to suck up to the right-wing creeps who leave comments on his blog, but it is revolting.
There are several words for powerful, middle-aged men who choose to pick on teenage girls, but the one which best sums up Tom Harris is bully. You will never, ever read him use this kind of language about anyone who has any kind of power or influence, it's always those who can't answer back who he chooses to pick on.
Tom has been an MP for years, and he represents hundreds of teenage mums in Glasgow South. But it sounds like he's never tried to get to know them, find out what the government could do to help them, or anything like that. Again, that's morally wrong.
And perhaps most depressing of all, there's the total lack of any kind of intellectual curiosity, or any sense that he might be interested in the research and evidence on this subject. Five minutes with Google would reveal that Tony Blair was talking about teenage pregnancies being 'a shameful record' ten years ago, that most teenage parents stay at home rather than getting a council flat and that most have little or no knowledge about the benefits that they'll be entitled to when they get pregnant.
He doesn't seem to know that a majority of lone parents work, that 60% of young women felt more positive about education after they became pregnant than before or that 79% said that motherhood had increased their determination to get a good job. He could have found all this, and much more, out if instead of writing his uninformed article, he had typed www.ywca-gb.org.uk into his browser and read the articles on their website. He does, after all, get given tens of thousands of pounds to hire researchers who could help him find this sort of stuff out.
Tom Harris chooses to bully those who are weaker than him; chooses not to find out about how he could help his constituents; and chooses to remain ignorant about important issues like this one and so many others. Those choices are wrong, and it is indeed time that we said so.