Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 2 July 2009


At a recent meeting with primary head teachers in Plymouth the conversation turned to the state of our nation as seen from the primary school. Amidst some positives and recognising a rapidly swirling world, the report swiftly became gloomy: disruptive behaviour on the increase, capacity for social interaction on the decrease and parental abdication of responsibilities off the scale. In the same week, news reached me that a pack of young people (aged 10 to 14) is running amok in parts of Plymstock once more, despite the best efforts of the police.

It is not the children’s fault, it is we the parents.

Let’s get one thing straight: teachers are not responsible for bringing up our children, we the parents are. The police are not there to discipline our kids. We are. I saw a 10 year old girl in a shop on Friday fling a huge packet of sweets into the trolley. Her mother said no, but after a major strop, the delightful child won the day. What chance for her future?

Some are trying to be their child’s best friend. That is not our role. We are to love, provide shelter, encourage, discipline, teach and do our best, but above all to be a parent. This means drawing boundaries and saying no and meaning it and enforcing it with sanctions if necessary. Of course the task is easier with two, although some single parents are managing heroically, whilst some households with two adults just can’t be bothered. It is not about one or two; it is about responsibility and commitment. 

There are many challenges that any incoming government will face: the recession, balancing the books once again and recapturing lost confidence in Parliament to name but a few. But something must be done to sort out the state of family structures in the UK, and the behavioural consequences which flow from it. We will never have enough teachers or police officers or social workers for the state to do the job that the family is designed to do.

The more provision we put in place, the more some parents will simply back off and expect the rest of us to raise their children. Fining parents who can’t be bothered has not proven successful. Parenting classes don’t seem to attract the ones who really need it.

Irresponsible parents are still a minority, but a growing one. We need a change of direction. All ideas gratefully received.

posted by Gary @ 11:42