“Woe to the land that is governed by a child…”


In the current political climate, which is fraught to say the least, I miss the ‘good old days’ where leaders behaved like grown ups…

There have been losing sides for as long as there have been elections, and when the people you vote for don’t win, there is an inevitable sadness and disappointment that accompanies this. You might feel ideologically opposed to a party that wins, but you can comfort yourself with the notion that at least the winners are equipped to do a competent job. And a difference in ideology doesn’t always mean that you will automatically disagree with everything that the victorious party decides to do.

This is where maturity comes in.

I was recently very surprised to find myself agreeing with a politician from the other side of the fence (it was George Osborne talking about Syria), and it reminded me of this need for maturity in both the electorate and those elected to represent us and debate the issues facing us. The idea that we don’t reject an idea simply because we don’t particularly like the person presenting it to us is a fairly basic one, and something that I think our politicians should bear in mind.

Because traditional debate in the House of Commons isn’t renowned for being overly mature. The braying atmosphere, the childish filibustering… none of this fills me with confidence that our elected representatives are engaging in sensible, mature debate about issues that are literally life and death.

But calling this ‘immature’ is in itself underestimating the problem and insulting children. Because most children know better.

Children know how and when to apologise. They evaluate their own behaviour, understanding when they have made ‘sad choices’. I love the term ‘sad choices’- it puts the onus on a decision being made rather than presupposing innate naughtiness, which in turn legitimises it (“I can’t help it, it’s just the way I am”). Bravo, primary schools.

Children are open to new ideas. They know that they don’t know everything, and they are happy to learn. They might view difference with fear, initially, but they will ask questions to further their understanding, and will more than likely reserve judgement. They take a stand against bullying and they have a very clear sense of right and wrong.

Children know that when they are asked to explain what a word means, they don’t repeat that word in the definition. Yes, Mrs May, I’m looking at you.

Our American friends might worry that in a few days, they will be “governed by a child”, but unfortunately, it’s much worse than that.

They will be governed by a toddler.

There is something narcissistic and tyrannical about a lot of toddlers. They can’t be reasoned with. They have tantrums if they don’t get their own way. They don’t understand sharing, or taking turns. How can they? They don’t have the tools for this yet. They are called the ‘terrible twos’ for a reason.

When Trump gave his press conference this week, he had an opportunity to reassure the public. He could have spoken with dignity and gravitas. He could have been calm and rational. He could have been fluent and eloquent. But he didn’t do any of these things, either because he was inherently unable to, or because he made sad choices. All he gave us was the same narcissistic tosh he’s been spouting for months.

The moral of this story comes courtesy of William Golding, who must have had a pretty hard day in class to go home and write ‘Lord of the Flies’. He understood the calm and logical potential in children, but he knew this can only exist with the supervision and guidance of grown ups. Without grown ups, the kind voices are the weakest, and violent, short-sighted tyranny will ensue. Without the influence of grown ups, toddlers don’t become children.

We can only be governed by children if we are the adults holding them to account.

There are myriad tools at our disposal- and there are more of us than them. We can insist on mature, rational and calm discussion. And we can call them out on their sad choices.

Somebody put Donald on the naughty step. He needs to think about what he’s done.


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