We Need Nanny
We are always being told that the nanny state is a bad thing: Tories have been banging on about it forever, and New Labour had a jolly good go at ditching Nanny. But why, when it’s Nanny’s job to keep you well fed, well clothed and usefully occupied? What’s more, she’ll make sure you behave nicely and don’t get into fights with other children, and she certainly won’t let you embarrass yourself and others by unseemly displays of temper and immoderate language.
Consider the monumental hypocrisy of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who would have us break with Europe and go it alone, trailing some tawdry and ineffectual sovereignty into the badlands where Nanny cannot reach us. Yet this is a man who has not yet left the care of his own nanny – a woman who, by his own admission, keeps his show on the road.
Nanny would have had no truck with the wicked lies put about by the arch-Brexiteers, or with the folly of enacting Article 50 before you have a sensible plan. She would have waded in and knocked heads together – figuratively speaking, in these post-‘reasonable defence’ days. And she certainly wouldn’t let these naughty boys and girls have a brand new £1.5bn nursery built in Richmond House while the Houses of Parliament are restored. No – she would make sure they pulled their socks up and went to work in Scunthorpe or Skelmersale for a few years, where they could share some of the discomforts of their less fortunate compatriots and reflect on what they could do to eliminate these.
It’s obvious that what we need right now is not so much a deus ex machina as a nanny from Norland. ‘The country is crying out for some stability right now,’ declared Laura Kuenssberg last week – too right! Stability is precisely what Nanny provides, which perhaps explains why I have such a soft spot for a couple of dictators who provided just that, apparently without lining their own pockets and while exercising a degree of repression dwarfed by the excesses of their more monstrous counterparts: Lee Kuan Yew and Fidel Castro. (I have long hankered for the firm smack of LKY’s zero-tolerance approach to rubbish in my own fly-tipped street.)
We all need Nanny because the flesh is weak. It’s hard to be good on your own. It’s hard to curtail the number of flights you take, redistribute any surplus wealth you might have, and run after the litter you have allowed to blow away with only your own self-discipline to keep you on the straight and narrow. But how much easier it becomes if Nanny is making you and everyone else do it – you just fall into line.
So who is Nanny? I see her as a devastating combination of the comfortable wisdom and down-to-earth common sense of Dandy Nicholls with the cool authority of Gillian Anderson. Would you dare to defy such a woman? (At this point, let me just clarify that Thatcher, despite resonating as a nanny-figure in the fantasies of many of her MPs, was not Nanny. Nanny cares about all her charges.)
Inevitably, I leave you with the moral of Hilaire Belloc’s cautionary tale about the unfortunate Jim, who was eaten by a lion:
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse