The Third Leader: Nanny state

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Significant times, these, for the influence on Britain of Dame Julie Andrews. First, Lord Lloyd Webber's knock-'em-dead revival of The Sound of Music follows Mary Poppins into the West End; then, at Westminster, the Prime Minister joins in, too, transforming us, as if by magic, from a Nanny state to a Supernanny state.

We do try to be sympathetic - and to keep up - as initiative follows initiative in pursuance of the Government's policy of being seen to be doing something about everything; nevertheless, it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that Ms Poppins, and any other Supernanny worth her umbrella and sensible shoes, would frown on such overexcited behaviour and order a period of quiet lying down in a darkened room before tea.

Ms Poppins and her 77 colleagues might also tut-tut about the dangers of watching too much television, as that's where Mr Blair seems to have got his idea from. Not long to go, then, before the introduction of compulsory ballroom dancing and a solution to prison overcrowding involving close incarceration in jungle conditions with questionable companions.

No one would question the severity of our social problems, but surely the answer, as Nanny would doubtless herself propose, is a stitch in time and an increased concentration on the simple, old-fashioned dosage so enthusiastically prescribed earlier: education, education, education.

Not that nannying, or even supernannying, is necessarily a bad idea, in the right place, at the right time. Clearly, a soothing, experienced figure, ever ready with sensible advice, would do this Government a power of good. Dame Julie?