Support 100 years of independent journalism.

4 April 2011updated 17 Jan 2012 6:01am

Time our politicians sat on the naughty step

David Cameron, Chris Huhne, Ed Miliband: I’m talking to you.

By Olly Grender

Back from drop-off at the school gate where, as parents, we work together to marshal our children. Inevitably, one child will call another one some stupid name, or tease them. Another One will be given a cuddle because they are upset that they have just been called a name.

As parents, we tell our children that name-calling is unacceptable. But as politicians, we seem to positively encourage it.

In the past week alone, David Cameron described Ed Balls at the “most annoying person in British politics”, Chris Huhne compared Baroness Warsi’s remarks to Goebbels and Ed Miliband refused to share a platform with Nick Clegg.

It doesn’t stop there. Cameron’s outburst means that it becomes legitimate for Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail to write a column about the 20 people in politics who annoy him most.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Now imagine that all these people were five-year-old children. What would you do with them? What if I had just bumped into Mrs Letts in the school playground and we had talked about what young Quentin was going to do when he grows up? “I really think that one day he will be able to write about all the people that really annoy him,” she boasts. Is that an ambition we want for our children?

Content from our partners
Railways must adapt to how we live now
“I learn something new on every trip"
How data can help revive our high streets in the age of online shopping

Good management training teaches us that negative feedback should be done with care and precision. Never describe the person. Always describe the incident. Never say “Your attitude is bad”, always say “I thought your attitude regarding this specific task was wrong”.

Like it or not, we as parents are shaping a society of the future. Politicians of all persuasions tell us to be responsible parents. I accept that responsibility. Now I would like the political classes to play their part, too.

When I turn on the television, I would like children to learn that name-calling is not the norm. Right now my naughty step would be pretty full.