When I was 4 there were some things that I knew.
I knew 1+1 = 2. I knew living in an intergenerational family set up behind the sweet shop that we ran was awesome. I knew Father Christmas existed. I knew the Tories were evil. I knew that you all knew this too.
I wasn’t actually sure what ” the Tories” was. I knew what it looked like: Margaret Thatcher. I knew that the Tories wanted to quash the spirit of all humankind, and probably Father Christmas, and it would be likely to steal my sweets given half a chance. I had a vague notion that people who hung around the periphery of the Royal Family, and people who had barths rather than baths were also somehow involved in this dastardly plot.
In 1992, one thing we all knew was that Labour would win the General Election. Humankind had finally found the strength, the courage to rise up, and so would begin the end of all of our woes.
But then Labour did not win. And in that eerily quiet day in our school, as my class mates and I tried to come to terms with a disappointment more desolate and desperate than I can possibly explain here, my perception of the world changed forever.
A group of us trundled along to our A Level Theatre Studies class and I recall vividly that the lesson was run more like a group bereavement session. We sat around a table and I asked the teacher, with innocent honesty “But how did they win? Nobody voted for them.”
He replied, in a voice that had hints of ‘barth’ rather than ‘bath’, “That’s why I moved here Abby: because nobody here believes the Tories are right”.
I knew the Tories were evil. But you knew they weren’t. WTF.
It was then that I questioned absolutely everything I thought I knew. It was an event that shaped my life and no doubt contributed to the fact that one year later I’d applied to study philosophy at Reading.
When I moved down South to pursue my studies, I met lots of people at university who also knew lots of things. What all of them all seemed to know was that, as a northerner, I was definitely going to be super friendly. I could say quite outrageous things and people wouldn’t shun me. Instead they’d comment favourably upon what a down-to-earth, call a spade-a-spade funny lass I was. I never even had to say who I voted for – it was written all over my vowels.
After I graduated I worked all over the UK and then settled down to have my family. Along the way I have been at times pretty poor and at times very well off. My accent has faded but my friendship group has grown bigger and stronger.
Some of my closest friends now vote Conservative. I suspect some of them vote UKIP, but given my 6-month Farage barage on Facebook, we’ve silently agreed to not mention this. None of them try to quash my spirit, or steal my sweets. In fact most of them are very generous in every way possible.
Now I am 38, I still know that 1+1 = 2. I remain in constant bemusement that inter generational living is seen as a tragedy. I suspect it’s a good thing that my kids don’t live anywhere near a sweet shop. I know Father Christmas doesn’t exist, but I kind of wish he did.
I know this time last week we were guaranteed to be welcoming in a hung parliament. I know the Conservatives now govern us under a majority.
I know the anger and the fury that the outcome of the election has raised in some quarters. But, despite the fact that I did not vote Conservative, I don’t feel this anger or fury. Neither do I feel the desolation or despair of 1992.
Instead I feel that last week something hugely important happened within politics. Not so much the outcome, but the thought process that led to that outcome.
I know that for many of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s, our political affiiations were almost programmed into our DNA, and now this is just not the case. Now, more than ever, we want to think for ourselves.
I cannot predict how I might vote at the next election, let alone how my children might vote in future. Does this matter? Is this important? Do I have a role to play in helping my kids think through what they think about politics?
I think it does matter. I think it is important. I think I have a key role and that
we need to start talking to our children now, not about what to think about politics but how to think about politics.
You might disagree.
But then, when you think about it, what do you know?