Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

How Alfie’s family will make sure the lad pays

Lindy McDowell, Belfast Telegraph

Little wonder JK Rowling called it a day on the Harry Potter series.

The way things are going in the real world she would have been forced to introduce a new character to teenage Harry’s circle in order to give her boy wizard contemporary credibility. His baby.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Infant Formula?

Whether the youthful inhabitants of Eastbourne’s Old Town estate have any time for reading these days is another matter. Flicking through the Mothercare catalogue is probably about the height of it.

As is revealed in this week’s interviews with 13-year-old father Alfie Patten, his 15-year-old girlfriend, Chantelle Stedman (mother of baby Maisie), and a couple of spotty youths claiming also to have bedded her, the kids around there appear to have entirely outgrown the magical stuff with happy ever after endings.

Yet despite this week’s outpouring of shock and censure there is, actually, nothing all that new in the story of the boy-father Alfie.

He is not the first 13-year-old to get a girl pregnant (if indeed Maisie is his.) Nor is Chantelle the first 15-year-old to give birth.

We may interpret this case as a grim reflection of our times, but the fact is that such things have happened before, even in other, more ‘moral’ eras. Even in other, much posher, areas.

What is new is that this time the central players have been keen to talk so we get to put faces to what would otherwise have been bleak statistics.

For — as you do when your child breaks it to you that he’s got another child pregnant — Alfie’s da has decided to cash in. He’s got himself a publicist.

Wee Alfie himself gives interviews and poses with Chantelle and the infant. He is so tiny and baby-faced that he could almost pass for another child of the sad-eyed Chantelle.

Meanwhile, his father is photographed in a devil’s mask (if the mask fits ) holding a sign that reads: ‘No comment. Ring Max.’ A reference to Mr Max Clifford, the aforementioned publicist.

A TV documentary crew covers the family’s every move in this unfolding saga. And why not?

Another TV documentary team cover what may be the last weeks in the life of tragic Jade Goody, whose spokesman coincidentally is also Mr Clifford.

A good publicist these days will cater apparently to your every publicity need from the cradle to the grave.

Sometimes you get the feeling that the world out there is turning into one marathon episode of Jeremy Kyle. Complete with DNA paternity testing.

Where are the social services in all this?

Why have they allowed this little boy, this little girl and their infant offspring to avail of the anti-social services of wall-to-wall publicity?

Is this doing any of the trio any favours?

Never mind the ideas it might be giving other attention-seeking youngsters who will have copped by now that a tabloid splash is much more lucrative than even family credit

For, as Alfie’s despicable father has grasped, with enough publicity you |don’t just make a drama out of a family |crisis. You also stand to make a packet |out of it.

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