I love to write but I have never (apart from Facebook and babycentre.com) written publicly! Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my first ever blog post would be a political one! I’m not what you would call political in any way so my reaction to the impending election has really surprised me. I’ve been thinking (and ranting to my husband and anyone who will listen to me) about this issue for a while. Then one of my old school friends phrased it perfectly the other day on good old Facebook. She is obviously quite politically motivated and said on one of her posts “we’ve got to choose someone or put ourselves in the firing line and get into politics personally.” This really struck a chord with me as I’d been mulling the impending election over in my mind for a long time.
As a mum of two young children I rarely have time to think about anything other than what the next meal will be, whether my child will require a snack after school, a midnight nappy change or a security blanket change! However last week, whilst cooking supper for my two year old and five year old daughters I switched Radio 1 on and found myself listening to David Cameron being slaughtered by voters in a Live Lounge session. Throughout the week I managed to catch a couple of the other PM hopefuls who had to face the same onslaught during their Live Lounge question time, and I found myself banging my pots and pans more and more aggressively! I suddenly came to realise that I find it hard to budget for my own tiny family of four every month, let alone a whole nation, so I need to respect anyone who is willing to attempt to take this monumental task on.
It seems to me that during an election all common sense is lost. People seem to think that politicians are magicians and can just wave a magic wand and make everything better. As a mum I know that I can’t even do that for my small family, let alone the whole of the UK.
Rational adults suddenly dissolve into tantruming two year olds, each with their own agenda with no consideration for anyone else. It is a selfish time and it shows the worst in lots of people. I found myself questioning what this election really meant. For the first time I really listened to what the politicians were saying, what they were trying to achieve and what resources they had to use. The more I listened to their patient voices and then the whinging, whining voices of the voters “I want this, I want that,” I realised that the situation wasn’t much different to my family life. It was just on a much bigger scale. If everyone stopped and looked at the situation in terms of their own small lives, as I’m going to lay it out below, maybe they would see what an impossible task any government is facing.
So firstly the thing to remember is that the basic rules of budgeting and keeping people happy apply whether it’s for a family of two, four, sixteen or 64 million people.
At the moment my family consists of me, my husband, my five year old and two year old daughters. I am going to give us all roles:
Me: Prime Minister/ Government/ Chancellor of the Exchequer/ Treasurer!
Husband: Tax Payer
Children: Little Voters with no common sense!
We have recently had to re-locate due to my husband’s job which has meant me giving up my job and becoming a full time mum. We therefore have to run the household on one income so budgeting is imperative and I am pretty useless at it!
Each month the Tax Payer’s money comes into our account and each month as Prime Minister I’m faced with deciding how best to spend it whilst being moaned at and screamed at from my little voters! The problem is that we all want different things. Of course we do! The little voters would like the latest toys, to go to Legoland, to go to the cinema and to have lots of sweets! The Tax Payer would like to have Sky Sports, Netflix, Sky Movies, a drone, a ski trip and a scuba diving holiday! Generally he goes along with whatever decisions I (The Prime Minister) make, but occasionally he rears his head and decides that as he is the one who ‘pays the tax’ he should have a say in what the money is spent on. This month that happened to be a new BBQ. Man must make fire to feel manly. As Prime Minister of my house I have to try to be the sensible one, although I would like to have my hair cut more than once a year, send the little voters to a better school, eat decent fresh food every week, and go on a nice holiday too! All of these things sound great but obviously it’s not possible to give us all what we want all of the time. It is difficult to say no to the little voters sometimes. I am however what you would call a no nonsense Prime Minister so my voters generally understand when a battle is lost.
As I listened to the debate on the radio I could hear in the MP’s & PM’s voices the strain that I hear in my own as I try to explain to my little voters why they can’t have what they are demanding. I could feel the frustration that I feel when they just won’t listen and keep repeating the same demands over and over. Then I felt angry because my voters are only five and two. They don’t know any better at the moment. But we, as real voters, are adults and should know better. These particular voters were behaving like complete spoilt brats. They flatly refused to even acknowledge the answers they were being given and in many cases the MP’s responses were, in my humble opinion, very reasonable. How many times does David Cameron have to repeat “yes I take your point that you think the voting age should be 16, however we have discussed this at length and at the moment we believe it should stay at 18.” What did that particular man expect? That the Prime Minister was just going to say, well yes of course, Bob from Thornton (not the actual name!), if you think the age should be 16 I will lower it right now! Even I was screaming, ‘just shut up about it’ to the man that just went on and on!
It was like being in the supermarket with my youngest little voter.
‘Can I have a lolly, Mummy?’
‘Yes you can have a lolly but not right now because we are going to have lunch in a bit.’
‘But I want a lolly.’
‘I know you would like a lolly, I have said you can have a lolly, but you cannot have it at this exact minute.’
‘I want a lolly now.’
‘grrrrrrrrrrr’ narrowing of eyes.
It goes on and on just as it did in the radio debate. The voices of the voters berating the MP’s suddenly became my toddler’s voices, winging and whining about what they wanted and that they wanted it right now. Some wanted more money for the NHS, some for better education, some for better rights for the LGT, some wanted the living wage to be made compulsory and one man in particular was accusing the government of actually causing the dreadful drownings in the Mediterranean, demanding our country does more to help the refugees. It would be ok if they were merely saying politely what they felt was important, then acknowledging the MP’s responses and shutting up, but it was their infuriating persistence that riled me.
I don’t deny that all of these causes are important and just. However what people seem to lose sight of during an election is that everyone wants something different and that it is not possible for the Prime Minister (whoever he may be) to give all of his attention to one cause and all of the budget to one agenda no matter how important it is in the eyes of the voters. Just because the government is unable to completely resolve all of the issues exactly the way we voters would like, it does not mean that they have failed as a government. If I can’t afford to take my little voters to Disney Land I feel awful but I haven’t failed as our family Prime Minister. I will take them somewhere fun that we can afford and not put ourselves in more debt. As Prime Minister of two little voters I would say better education and an excellent NHS is probably top of my wish list, and yes this would be at the detriment of the refugees fleeing Syria (sorry if this makes you mad) however I understand that each issue has to be considered and given attention. I’m not going to demand all the attention goes on the things that I want and tell the Prime Minister that he and his government are useless and have let me down just because they have given some attention to someone else’s idea.
As I turned in disgust to my fridge to survey my weekly menu I realised that I can barely budget and run a family of four successfully. I get stressed just going to the supermarket, as the food passes through the checkout and the green illuminated figures climb higher and higher always surpassing the money I have allowed for that week my heart rate quickens and I have to calculate what savings I will have to make elsewhere that month. I dread telling the Tax Payer how much of his hard earned money I had to spend on the weekly shop but he understands that budgeting our monthly finances is a fine balancing act. I always start off with good intentions, I tell myself I will only spend £80 on the weekly shop, then bingo we have an impromptu BBQ with friends which costs a small fortune, the car breaks down or the tax disc needs renewing, the girls need a fancy dress costume for world book day, their feet suddenly grow and they require a multitude of new shoes for school, ballet, general day to day playing & wellies, they both get invited to a party where decent presents are required and the money just vanishes.
If everyone today really thought about how they run their own finances maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to judge the government who have to sort out the entire nation’s finances.
Of course the deficit is a subject that is discussed over and over. People complaining about the cuts that have to be made. Well I’m sure that a lot of people out there have their own deficits to sort out. Credit cards, car finance loans etc. I know we do.
Before we had little voters, when I was a tax payer as well and my husband, we took out a loan to start our own business. The business did well but after only a few years we had to close it due to various issues and ridiculous land lords. Although my husband now has a good job we are still tied in to paying back a huge loan probably for the rest of our lives. Each month we see that money going out of our account to cover our past borrowing and we think what we could spend it on instead. However we realised that we took the loan because it was what we wanted at that time in our lives and now we have to pay for it. It means that we have to make certain cutbacks in other areas. We can’t have the best sky package, we can’t send the kids to private school, we can’t go on a super holiday every year, but that’s life. That’s what happens when you borrow more than you can afford, something else has to be cut to pay it back. So the billions of pounds that the last government gave away now has to be recouped by the present government. Cuts have to be made which make the current government look like the bad guys. They aren’t the bad guys they are just trying to get us back on track. Like when some well-meaning family member gives your children all the chocolates and sweets they want over Christmas and you are left looking like the bad guy when you say ‘no more chocolate.’ The look on your children’s faces is awful. They hate you. They don’t understand why they can’t carry on eating chocolate for breakfast, lunch and supper. But they are children. We as a nation should bloody understand why we can’t just be given everything, why cuts have to be made. Whatever government gets in on 7th of May, will have to continue to make cuts in certain areas no matter what promises they are making now. There is no ideal answer, we can’t all have everything as my eldest little voter learned last weekend.
Recently we have started giving the little voters some pocket money. Every Sunday they get one shiny gold coin (£1) each to go in their money box. They like to count them every morning at breakfast to make sure they both have the same amount. We then went on a family day out and the eldest little voter decided she would like to buy a cuddly toy to add to her millions of other discarded cuddly toys. We told her she would have to use her own pocket money to buy it. I explained that she had £6 and if she bought the toy she would only have £2 left. At which point the youngest little voter, who was listening and also clutching a cuddly toy, promptly put it back on the shelf and said she wanted to keep all her gold coins instead. The eldest little voter paid her £4 and cuddled her toy all the way home. The next morning at breakfast the girls both opened their money boxes and counted their coins. The youngest one piled her 6 coins up into a tower whereupon the eldest went into a total meltdown crying that it wasn’t fair that her sister had 6 coins and she only had 2 and that they should now share the coins equally between them. I had to sit her down calmly and explain that she had made the decision to spend 4 of her coins which meant she had less than her sister now. She just couldn’t get over the fact that her little sister had more coins than her and that she would probably never have an equal amount again until her sister decided she would like to spend some of her hoard!
The frustration I felt explaining the consequences to her was the same as the frustration I felt listening to one of the voters on the radio going on and on that we should be spending more money on helping the refugees coming over from Syria. I’m all for helping people in need but not to the detriment of other important issues. All I could think was that if there came a time when this particular voter had to go to A&E and was made to wait for more than four hours I bet he would be the one to stand up and start shouting that the government should put more funding into the NHS and that they were useless. Blah blah blah.
As I had to explain to my daughter, there is a finite amount of money. You cannot put it all into one pot and then complain when there isn’t enough left to go into another pot, which is what a lot of people out there seem to be doing. If it is all put into one pot, then cuts are going to have to be made elsewhere further along the line. It’s not going to be easy and it won’t be fun having to sacrifice things we want but it’s just common sense and it’s what has to happen. There simply isn’t enough money to make every situation perfect. To make every hospital immaculate, to make every school ‘outstanding’, to save all the suffering people around the world. The best anyone can do is try to give everyone a little bit to help their cause and even that is difficult sometimes as we all know from managing our own finances. How many times have you wanted to give someone a better birthday present, to really spoil someone who deserves it, but in the end you just can’t afford it. So you give your family your love and your support and your ear. You listen to your children’s wants and demands and sometimes you can treat them and other times you have to try to placate them with something else. That’s life.
So before you vote on 7th May, really think about what’s important to you, look at all of the party’s agendas and realise that no one will be able to fulfill all of your criteria so you have to go for the most sensible overall package that suits your needs. Don’t criticise our current Prime Minister for making the cuts that have been necessary because the last Prime Minister borrowed too much, and before you criticise the next Prime Minister (whoever that may be), for not giving all his attention to your particular cause; STOP. Think about how hard it is to run a normal family budget. Think about the unexpected costs that arise each month that you haven’t budgeted for, where does the money come from to cover those extra costs? How does your stomach churn and your mind buzz trying to make cuts elsewhere to make sure you don’t run out of money by the end of the month? Now be grateful that there are people in this country who actually want to give looking after our entire nation a bash, because it’s not a job I would want to do.