In the run up to last month’s general election, I felt it was my maternal duty to make my small daughter aware that she was living through a historic moment.
I have a few memories of national and international import from my own childhood. Kennedy’s assassination, chiefly because it was the only time our next door neighbour came in to our house unannounced and the only time I saw her cry. Winston Churchill’s funeral: I had no idea who he was, but I knew that he was A Great Man. The first footstep of mankind on the moon: unlike most British children, I experienced this in the afternoon, because at that point my family lived in California.
So I had not expected Laura to be especially interested in the election, especially considering her school, unlike her cousin’s, was not closed for the day to be used as a polling station. (What a great way to instil a love of democracy in young children.) To my surprise, she followed the election news avidly and quickly formed strong and independent political views.
Firstly, she favoured Gordon Brown as “president” because he shared a Christian name with her Daddy. She also clamoured for an orange diamond on a stick to be displayed in our front garden because her best friend had one in hers. She liked the local Lib Dem’s alliterative slogan: “Win With Webb” and was gratified when he did.
“Why don’t they make Win With Webb president?” she asked. “He sounds good.”
Well, there are worse reasons.
She certainly pipped me at the post for early political awareness. Despite growing up in Edward Heath’s constituency, my main perception of his importance was that he opened my brother’s grammar school fete. Otherwise, my main childhood recollection of politics was a playground skipping rhyme, each girl stepping into the turning rope as her name was called:
“Vote, vote, vote for little Debbie,
Calling Debbie at the door,
For Debbie is a lady
And she’s going to have a baby
So we won’t vote for Debbie any more.
CHUCK HER OUT!”
To our way of thinking, this dismissal seemed only fair. Astonishing, then, that the Prime Minister to emerge from first election in which my generation was old enough to vote was a lady by the name of Margaret. It seems like ancient history now.
(This post originally appeared in the Tetbury Advertiser, June 2010)