Immature, egotistical show-offs - why don't these men grow up?

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The Independent Online

Last Father's Day, the radical campaigning group Fathers4Justice stormed court one at the High Court and occupied it for an hour. This year the group appears to be planning a rather more sustained campaign. Wednesday's condom attack on Tony Blair is, apparently, merely the opening salvo in a chain of attention-grabbing protests that will culminate in a civil rights march in London, dubbed Day of the Dad, and scheduled for 18 June.

Last Father's Day, the radical campaigning group Fathers4Justice stormed court one at the High Court and occupied it for an hour. This year the group appears to be planning a rather more sustained campaign. Wednesday's condom attack on Tony Blair is, apparently, merely the opening salvo in a chain of attention-grabbing protests that will culminate in a civil rights march in London, dubbed Day of the Dad, and scheduled for 18 June.

No doubt the marchers will be aiming for maximum media coverage, as they struggle to get across the message that the judicial system is biased against fathers. Some of them, I suspect, will be hoping that their estranged children might even see pictures of them on television or in the newspapers, then understand that they want to be with them, and that they care. The saddest aspect of this whole campaign is the suspicion that the men involved, often dressed in comic superhero outfits, are as motivated by the idea that they may attract the attention of their own children as they are by the wish to publicise their cause.

In the cases of Guy Harrison and Ron Davis, the men who launched the attack on Blair, it was inevitable that their antics would attract the attention of their former partners, and probably their children as well. In fact, legal action has now been taken to protect the identities of the children.

No doubt the people at Fathers4Justice see this judicial intervention as deeply ironic. After all, these men see the courts as their enemies as much as they do the mothers of their children. The fact that their protests have led to another pay-day for the lawyers will only contribute to their sense of victimhood.

Yet it is this obsession with their own plight, rather than the pursuit of a more inclusive approach, that makes Fathers4Justice an unattractive organ- isation. Many other pressure groups, less committed to "direct action", have been campaigning for some time for changes in similar areas to those which Fathers4Justice highlight. These groups have made progress. There is huge and growing appreciation of the importance of fathers in children's lives. There is wide public sympathy for the plight of fathers who are maliciously denied access to their children.

But there is also an uncomfortable recognition that if a former couple are so unable to decide between themselves what is best for their children, then the courts have little prospect of doing it for them. Jailing mothers who defy court orders, or fining them, punishes the child as well as the mother. However slender, the only hope of men in such a ghastly situation is that they can somehow repair the rift in the parental relationship. In time, the most explosive relationships can move on.

By deciding to take such a decisive step into the public arena, and to orchestrate such a high-profile media-friendly campaign, Fathers4Justice have opted instead for more confrontation. Their protests are provocative, personal, immature and egotistical. That the group's actions have so far been judged sympathetically by the courts is indicative of the fact that people understand them to be the deeds of desperate people.

Nevertheless, the private difficulties of the men involved will only be exacerbated by their activities. The group as a whole will, I fear, have a similarly negative impact on the wider debate.

¿ I was never a fan of Diana, Princess of Wales. But I'm a huge fan of the playground that was built in her memory. Children love the place, as well they should. What could be more fun than rampaging around a gorgeous fantasy landscape on the theme of Peter Pan, complete with tepee-strewn Native American camp and canvas-rigged pirate ship? If there's a finer playground in Britain, I've never seen it.

Even the fact that it's situated in Kensington Gardens, and serves a wealthy community, seems fitting. If you go during the week, most of the little under-fives are accompanied not by their parents, but by nannies or au pairs. These are the people the People's Princess lived among, not the hungry and deprived she targeted in her charitable endeavours, and these are the ones who gain most from the fabulous amenity her tragic passing inspired.

I also think I'll rather like the more formal memorial that is now being completed in the same neck of the woods. The "moat without a castle" is simply two circulars streams, one slow and smooth, one fast and choppy, converging in a dish-shaped pool. It's shallow and all it does is go round in circles. Yet it still manages to be controversial. This seems to me to capture the very essence of the Princess we knew and loved.

Sitcom stars seem stuck in their roles

Britons are £1 trillion in debt. This is a worrying problem, not least for Barclaycard, which must have been wondering how to squeeze another single penny in high interest borrowing out of us. Happily, our old friend Jennifer Aniston is at hand, riding to their rescue.

You might think that a fabulously wealthy young actress who has just finished with the role that made her famous would be seeking out new acting challenges. You might think, since she's already a multi-millionaire, that it would be the part's integrity, rather than the cash it delivers, that is her prime consideration.

You'd be wrong though. Ms Aniston has just signed up to do an advertisement for Barclaycard, so that her beloved fans can get themselves nicely in hock as they pursue her "look". Until I heard this, I'd thought Sarah Jessica Parker was a pathetic breadhead for signing up to promote soap the minute she left Sex And The City. But Ms Aniston's choice of endorsement has made Ms Parker's look positively saintly.

Much has been made of the fact that both of the television series that these women starred in ended with them both turning down new lives in Paris. In real life too, the women appear too stuck in their roles - and too greedy - to try something different.

¿Meanwhile, in the same week as Fathers4Justice made their protest, a woman suspicious that her boyfriend had been intimidating her one-year-old daughter caught him on camera swinging her violently by her ankle. This man, who was sentenced to psychiatric help after claiming post-traumatic stress disorder, has up till now been seeing his own child from a previous relationship every weekend. Men like him set back justice for fathers far more than women or the courts ever could.

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