In 1981 Norman Tebbit (The former Conservative MP and then Employment Secretary) said that unemployed people should get on their bikes and go and find work. At the time my parents agreed with him, but my family hadn’t experienced unemployment. My brother and sister both had jobs and I was still at school. When I did leave school, three years later, unemployment was even worse and I had no chance of finding a job. I had no experience and only a handful of qualifications, employers weren’t interested in me and the tiny amount of benefit money I got meant I couldn’t travel to look for work.
Seeing, first hand, my experience of unemployment changed my parents’ attitudes – there was no more talk of “getting on your bike”. It especially opened my mother’s eye.
My own political views have always been shaped by my experiences, as a nurse, as a gay man, as a lapsed Christian, my childhood, the places I’ve lived in and the people I know and have known. I have a deep desire for social justice – I’ve always been a dreamer.
Then they called a general election. I’d lost interest in it even before all the campaigning had started. There was only one choice, did you want Gordon brown or David Cameron as Prime Minister, because their policies are almost identical and neither of them is a great leader (and I had such high hopes for Gordon Brown, well I was wrong there). Then we had the first election debate, on television. At the time I dismissed it as another example of British politics turning into the American version, I didn’t watch it. The day after it everything changed. Nick Clegg had shined in the debate and suddenly it was a three horse race, and my interest jumped up.
We may be looking at a hung Parliament, and the Labour/Conservative politicians and the Tory press are screaming blue murder about this (listening to them you’d think it would be the end of our country), and I think that would be a good idea. With a hung Parliament, whoever forms the government will have to discuss and make deals with the other parties, they wouldn’t be able just push through their policies by the force of their majority, we may finally get back to political debate in Parliament.
Tomorrow should be very interesting...