Two stories in the press recently caught my eye, one of which is of local interest, but first let me, with a due sense of dread, deal with the wider issue: transgenderism. The Boy Scouts Association have followed their sister (if I may use that word) organisation, the Girl Guides in codifying its attitude and practices to boys who identify themselves as really being girls or express a preference for that gender. And vice versa of course.
Girls have been allowed to join the Scouts at all levels since 1991 and boys the Guides some time later, moves that mystified me at the time and still do. Why not just merge the two organisations and make savings on the back-office costs?
I joined the Scouts when I was eight as a Wolf Cub and stayed until at 16 when I got the Queen’s Scout Award and started to take an interest in girls.
My sister was a Girl Guide, as they were called back then in the dark ages. She would not have enjoyed British Bulldogs, a rather violent game greatly relished by boys of the rougher variety. Not me, obviously – I was shy and timid.
Advice is given to Scout leaders by their association to avoid words such as boy, girl, lady, gentleman and so on to avoid making people uncomfortable and that “gender dysphoria” – the belief that one is born the wrong sex – can be diagnosed in children as young as two.
The problem here is that there needs be no medical diagnosis at any age – self-reporting is all it takes. I don’t know what boy scouts are like these days, but I am pretty sure that during my time there were boys who would readily have self-diagnosed gender dysphoria if that meant they could get closer to girls. Not me, obviously, but there were certainly.
What worries me, amid all this modern thinking, is what has become of child protection, or safeguarding as we now call it?
Is this new concern, much talked about but not in my view thought through sufficiently, compatible with sensible child protection?
Should I send my Queen’s Scout Award back to Buckingham Palace as a token of my concern, following the Beatles who returned their MBEs in a protest gesture? It may be of course that my naive expressions of concern will be construed as a hate crime – a single complaint would be enough – and a police officer, possibly of uncertain gender, will come knocking.
The second story concerns Swampy, an eco-warrior from the 80s who made a considerable nuisance of himself by living up trees and in sewer pipes in protest (if I remember correctly) at the building of by-pass roads.
He was keen on squatting. He was called Swampy because he had the appearance of someone who lived in a swamp. In fact his name was Steve Bassam. His name is now Lord Bassam of Brighton having been put in the House of Lords by – who else – Tony Blair. All this came to light when he was accused of fiddling his expenses as a peer and whip in the House of Lords.
We’ll see how that plays out in due course, but two thoughts occurred to me. Has Lord Swampy made a celebrity guest appearance in Kirby Misperton?
Many of the protesters there are, like me, of an age to remember him and possibly regard him as a role model; he could probably offer a few helpful tips.
The second thought is this – is there lurking in the anti-fracking camp a future Peer of the Realm as yet unrecognised.
I am too old to be alive and sentient when recognition comes, but I urge younger readers to watch out for this likely development.