“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” (Ronald Reagan)
British officialdom revealed itself in all its ghastly ugliness in the last few days – high handed, autocratic and arrogant, the police force and the NHS contrived to demonise the parents of a sick child by whipping up a media frenzy normally reserved for serial killers and terrorists. Hampshire Police are still refusing to apologise for the international manhunt they instigated when a father removed his five-year-old son, Ashya King, who has a brain tumour, from Southampton General Hospital. Having been alerted by hospital doctors insisting that the child was in “grave danger”, the police set off in hot pursuit right across Europe until the family was eventually tracked down in Malaga.
Despite the authorities’ implicit suggestion that this was a kidnapping by unhinged lunatics, Ashya had been carefully sustained throughout the journey by means of a machine taken from Southampton General and the parents had simply been searching for a facility that might have provided treatment (proton beam therapy) that was deemed too costly back in the UK. Once they had been found, Ashya was rushed to the Materno Infantile Hospital in Malaga and deprived of contact with family members. His parents were arrested and are still being held in Soto del Real jail on the outskirts of Madrid.
Clearly, this episode raises all kinds of questions about parental sovereignty and the role of the state. It also seems loathsomely ironic that a family can be criminalised and intimidated in this way at a time when the authorities, terrified of offending a racial minority, have been failing to investigate the abuse of hundreds of children in places like Rotherham.