Many years ago, before the birth of the first of the Drew offspring, an earnest member of the midwifery service announced at an ante-natal class that her department "would be responsible for your child until the age of 2". She copped a curt correction from yours truly, which made for a frosty evening as you can imagine.
It's all too easy in our 'civilised society' to take the view that nothing trumps the well-being of innocent children. A colourful example comes in today's news of a super-injunction that is to spare the blushes of we-all-know-who-anyway, on account of his kids who might be bullied at school if word of his marital infidelity were to be published. No, Lord 'Justice' Ward, responsibility for protecting his children lies with the miscreant lui-même: if they can't take the joking, don't do the poking.
This matters a lot more than just gossip about TV personalities: more, even, than the obvious logical extension of this daft ruling which would protect the names of criminals if they had school-age children. Because it lies behind the utterly ruinous policies whose guiding principle is - it doesn't matter how irresponsibly and willfully an adult has behaved: if there are children involved the state must step in and see everyone alright. It certainly costs us untold amounts in welfare benefits. And I expect it speaks well for us as a nation.
Except that, naturally enough, just as women who anticipated being under sentence of death used to get pregnant, so the reckless and the feckless make damned sure they have some children with which to share any misery that might be the outcome of their behaviour.
Reductio ad absurdum. There should be no reward for using children as human shields, because (a) it's rather easy to come by children and (b) it's the height of wickedness.
As ever, how we are to get back to universal parental responsibility from the depths to which we have now sunk is a very difficult question. If we are relying solely on Iain Duncan Smith and Frank Field to solve it for us, I fear we may have several generations to wait, and many more millions of little hostages to be taken.
For all that we can't do much about it, it's wicked nonetheless.