A Belgian minister has resigned after falsely claiming that demonstrators were directed by hidden forces. She should have focused on their message

When confronted by child protesters, politicians and other adults often reach for the age-based putdown, rather than engage with the substance of whatever it is they are protesting about. Often, the suggestion is that someone older has put them up to it. Flemish environment minister Joke Schauvliege took the patronising tactic much too far when she said that recent school strikes across Belgium were a “set-up”, and that security services knew who was really “behind this movement”. On Tuesday, after Belgian security services issued a rare denial, Ms Schauvliege resigned. On Thursday, the youth-led demonstrations spread to the Netherlands, as thousands of people marched in The Hague. Similar protests are scheduled to take place across the world in the coming weeks.

They show that, in fact, young people are able to influence their elders. When a journalist asked Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg who was pulling the strings behind her school strike last summer, she replied: “Some people claim that my parents have brainwashed me, but it was the opposite: I brainwashed my parents. I convinced them not to fly and to stop eating meat.”

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