Nanny state is a term of British origin (and primary use) that conveys a view that a government or its policies are overprotective or interfering unduly with personal choice.
Interestingly, the phrase is said to have probably been coined by “the Conservative British MP Iain Macleod who referred to ‘what I like to call the nanny state’ in his column ‘Quoodle’ in the December 3, 1965, edition of The Spectator.“ I say interestingly because it’s now the turn of the Conservatives themselves – along with MI5, our very own island-bound security service – to decide precisely which flavour of economic theory the United Kingdom should believe in (or maybe that’s kow-tow to – depending of course on your point of view):
Britain’s internal security service, MI5, includes ‘the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism’ is on its ‘list of potential targets to be safeguarded against subversion. We are told this by Bernard Porter, the distinguished historian. He can’t tell us how he knows that, because he found out in a discussion held under Chatham House rules.
As Dan Hind concludes:
[...] To put it yet another way, if the Labour party adopted economic policies that would serve the interests of the majority, they would become legitimate targets for counter-subversion.
But as he also points out in his piece, all three main political parties seem to pay at the very least lip-service to aspects of economic policy which would hardly come under the description of the “Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism”: cooperatives and mutuals, industrial democracy of various kinds and so on. Which effectively means MI5 believes (has believed for a long time now) that if push came to shove a pretty substantial number of politicians and their supporters would fall down on the wrong side of the socioeconomic fence.
Is this then a case of the nanny state run rampant? Is this then a case of a nation suddenly packed full of revolutionary subversives? Or do we need, in a world which supposedly tends towards more open government, to apply democracy-guaranteeing crowdsourcing technologies not only to our politics but also to the long-held and perhaps already stale assumptions of our blessedly antiquated, though obviously still necessary, internal security services?
Is it, in fact, in Cameron’s nanny state, now time for the spies to finally come in from the cold of ancient autocracy?
No. I’m not suggesting we should all get involved in day-to-day operational matters at all. But working as a nation of empowered voters to draw up a series of detailed objectives and aims – to iron out such absurdities as that “Anglo-Saxon economic model” for example – would surely be something worth putting in a manifesto and voting on at the next election. Or simply bringing to Parliament and working through in a consensual way between all interested parties.
What do you think? Those millions of intelligent crowdsourcing eyes applied to the interface between the worlds of spookdom and civil society?
Answers on a machine-read postcard to …