Politics has been a topic of interest in our family for years. My son has loved the idea of being a politician on and off for the last 15 of his 25 years, or at least ever since he read First Among Equals, a classic politician’s handbook by Jeffrey Archer. Channelling Chuka Umunna, or Churchill if we want to go slightly overboard, he went through a couple of parties until he found his perfect fit with the Liberal Democrats.
I myself went through a phase of dabbing in and toying with the idea of having a go at politics. It never amounted to much in the end, and my political involvement to date at its highest was manning a Conservative Friends of Poland stall at a party conference several years ago. I did also go to one, yes one, meeting with local party chairman to discuss the prospect of me running for Tooting. So there, the extent of my once self-delusion, on a plate.
Looking back, it was so laughable that I am no longer sure whether that meeting actually took place, or did I just make it up, the way we all imagine ourselves in situations which are never going to happen, and then re-run these scenarios in our heads until they seem plausible? Well, this now sounds like one of those.
In the event, Dan Watkins took ‘my’ place and lost badly. So, in true Marlon Brando style, it could have been me, I could have lost to Sadiq Khan. Twice.
These days I limit myself to getting embroiled in futile political debates on Facebook. The moment I read that I didn’t know what I was voting for and that I was fooled by a promise on the bus, I am in. Common sense, better judgement, maturity, all forgotten. I don’t do Twitter, though. Small mercies.
The level of our family’s involvement in the actual nitty-gritty of it all goes up and down.
Right now I would say it’s up, what with my son working as a campaign manager for Danny Chambers, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for North Cornwall, and my youngest daughter writing emails to her mate Caroline asking her to help her persuade her mother (me) to let her go on another climate strike at the end of the month.
We didn’t know anything about it until Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, wrote back; ‘Dear Alexia, thank you for your email, however, I believe it would not be appropriate for me to ask your mum…’ thanks Caroline, at least one thing we can agree on.
Alexia is 14.
The rest of my family adopt a more laid back approach to politics, but it still doesn’t stop my husband from pointing out every gaffe and inconsistency of Boris Johnson’s government with a glint in his eye and reminding me several times a week what his exact opinion on the idiocy of Brexit is.
My middle daughter reserves her judgement, or simply has better things to do with her 17-year-old life.
So anyway. I am mentioning this because in the view of all the above, I might not be best qualified to assess the level of political awareness nationwide, and I might make assumptions judging by what goes on under my own roof, and what shocked me today beyond belief, perhaps shouldn’t have.
Today work took me to an out of the way West Sussex town which shall remain nameless.
Even after all these years, whenever I go out of London I am still surprised by how friendly people are and how much they talk to one another. Today was no different.
A friendly Irish woman in her early thirties started a conversation with me;
– Oh, so you are an interpreter, what language do you speak?
– Oh, I see, you must be busy then, lots of Polish people around here.
– Yes, I am busy for now, but it might all change after Brexit, they might decide to go back to Poland.
– No, no, no, Brexit was cancelled. It is not happening any more, I am pretty sure of it.
– Eer, no, I believe it is still happening, it’s just been a few delays.
– Oh, ok, I thought they cancelled it. What is Brexit anyway, I don’t understand any of it, do you?
I wasn’t sure what to say to that, so I stated the obvious that Brexit meant that we, Britain, the country, were leaving the European Union. She said she didn’t understand what that actually meant, and then she asked me if I knew whether the word Brexit had any specific meaning or was it just a made-up word.
I began to wonder whether we were on some sort of candid camera wind-up or whether she was seriously asking me that. I told her that Brexit simply meant British Exit from the EU. She was amazed to hear that. She took a couple minutes to digest that piece of information, and then she thanked me for educating her what Brexit was. She was visibly pleased with herself, well, well, well, she said, I learnt something new today.
She then decided that since I was such a fountain of knowledge, she might as well milk me for all I got. What happened to the woman, she asked, they sacked her, didn’t they? We established that she meant Theresa May. She asked me a lot more questions, and she seemed genuinely fascinated by each answer. The highlights of our conversations were what is the EU, was Thatcher a Conservative, and what are we voting for in December.
After lunch, when I thought I was done with politics for the day, another lady, English, middle-aged, started chatting to me. She said she couldn’t help overhearing my earlier conversation. She then told me that Boris Johnson was an American, as he was born in New York, and grew up there, and that’s why he was going to sell our NHS to America.
Who needs the Russians.