The screening campaign is a textbook exercise in wasting money. For example, one strand of the initiative is to send testing kits to under-25's who requested them, and asking for them to be sent back. So, last year, Huntingdon Connexions sent out 360 testing kits. 3 were returned.
I'm not trying to minimise the threat chlamydia poses, nor the misery that can be caused by the infertility it can lead to if not treated. Indeed, its danger was underlined this week with the revelation that an outbreak of the disease is threatening Australia's Koala population with extinction.
What I'm saying is that the Government's chlamydia strategy goes beyond farce into a sinister study of the mindset of middle-aged men (predominantly) who wish to sexualise our children by stealth - witness "concerned council workers at Bournemouth Borough Council" setting up a mobile scheme where children as young as 13 could be tested for chlamydia. Actually, in recent months I had a conversation with a Cambridgeshire school nurse who was trying to work out how to get twelve-year-old children tested at the school disco. When I countered that this could be seen as conconing sexual activity on the part of people who could not consent to it (the minimum age at which consent for anything is legal in England and Wales is 13), her colleague hushed her up.
The tragedy of all this is that the Government is packaging it with a campaign to delay early sex. You don't dissuade kids having sex by concomitantly giving them condoms, as in the C-Card scheme. You get there by starting from the position that some things are objectively right and others objectively wrong, but reinforcing compassion for individuals who for whatever reason fall short of the mark (as I betimes do in various ways). For instance, at the Roman Catholic secondary school I attended, the SPUC (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) Group's major activity was raising funds to present teenage mums with baby clothes and toys.
So what went wrong?
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (Lord Sacks, Britain's Chief Rabbi), makes a compelling case in The Dignity of Difference:
One of the most important ideas of Harvard political philosopher John Rawls is that of "public reason", the process by which people in political debate use a language and logic accessible to all so that we can - in the prophet Isaiah's phrase - "reason together". The idea of reasoning together was dealt a fateful blow in the twentieth century by the collapse of moral language, the disappearance of moral language, the disappearance of "I ought" and its replacement by "I want", "I choose", "I feel". Obligations can be debated. Wants, choices and feelings can only be satisfied or frustrated.
Case in point: part of the campaign to delay early sex is a leaflet entitled "R U Ready?" which contains a self-assessment questionnaire for children to decide whether it is in their interests to start a sexual relationship, which can then be "scored" in the manner of a magazine quiz (click the pic on the left to view the whole leaflet) . On the back there's a section headed "Other help", the first entry in which is the Brook Helpline, attached to the abortion service, whose murderous wheels are oiled by the blood of children, whom abortion destroys as surely as chlamydia kills koalas.