This morning sees Chris Grayling MP, the Conservative Justice Secretary, tell the national media and British citizens at large that he smacked his children when they were younger and that this not only did them good but helped, occasionally, to send out a message.

Chris Grayling goes on to give his support to parents who also smack their children and believes that it is appropriate, but does not himself subscribe to beatings which go above and beyond his own remit of what’s acceptable (and the article does not tell us what that is, other than a broad mention of smacking).

But Chris Grayling is not alone; he forms part of a growing army of politicians who speak loud and proud about hitting their children and the virtues of this kind of behaviour. Labour politician, David Lammy MP, who we renamed David Smack Me MP after his own admission that he likes to smack his children, was arguably the first politician in the twenty-first century to go public with this vignette (David is the Chair for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood, no less). The usual arguments were put forward – his constituents felt they were unable to hit their children when they had been naughty due to new legislation which made it harder for parents to hit their children and David Smack Me MP even went so far as to suggest his constituents felt they could have stopped the London Riots had they been allowed to punish their children this way.

Yet a lot of things are going unsaid. Scientific research makes it very clear that smacking children does not benefit them in any way and in fact goes a long way to creating problems late on into adult life. The Council of Europe wanted to ban smacking and many children’s’ rights groups have been up in arms over this issue. No doubt, they will be speaking out shortly over Chris Grayling’s latest PR faux pas, which has seen his aids in Westminster falling over themselves to try to smooth this blunder over.

But that’s not the end of the story. The contradictions in Chris Grayling’s Prison Reformation policies come to the fore in this sentiment. No doubt Christopher Grayling wouldn’t disagree with the view that it is wrong, and in fact illegal in this country, to hit adults and domestic violence is, and rightly so, looked down upon. But it’s alright for us to smack our children. The one demographic, who are most vulnerable, not just because of their age (most children are smacked as infants and toddlers), but because they are emotionally dependant on the very people who smack them. It is one of the most unhealthy forms of violence. And our Prison Reform Minister sanctions it.

There really isn’t much left to say, except this: we really do need to start electing intelligent, kind people to represent us. Neanderthals with nasty palms just won’t do.

And for those who would like to know the current position on smacking, here it is:

  • UK parents have not been explicitly prohibited from smacking their children.
  • The 2004 Children’s Act removed the defence of “reasonable chastisement” in England and Wales for any punishment towards a child that leads to bruising, swelling, cuts, grazes or scratches.
  • Any adult found guilty of breaking the law may face up to five years in jail.
  • Similar laws exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland
  • Physical punishment is prohibited in all maintained and full-time independent schools, in children’s homes, in local authority foster homes and Early Years provision.

Chris Grayling MP