A Public Tongue After the Election

‘Mum, guess whose hand I shook today’, my son says, my boy who, contrary to my explicit instructions, has insisted on growing up and leaving home, and now lives in foreign parts (Yorkshire).

Somehow he always phones when on the move, so that his voice is only crackle and squeak, his words carried away by a howling wind. It’s wuthering in those far north lands.

‘ … and … shook … Pudsey’ I hear, and have visions of my boy gripped in the crushing embrace of a luridly yellow bear sporting a spotty bandana.

‘Listen! Ed Miliband, mum, I’ve been campaigning in Pudsey.’ His passion is infectious; the hope makes my heart ache.

That night he gets into the party rally, and the next day returns to Pudsey, pounding the streets, knocking on doors, getting the vote out. By election night he is exhausted, high on excitement, drunk on the great dream, seized by belief. This young man of mine has fire in his belly and is very clear on what makes him angry: children going to school hungry; the queues at food banks; old people evicted from care homes where they are happy; a generation of students dogged by crushing debt.

My boy, young as he is, is not fooled by Cameron’s bribe of freezing taxes, his generous offer of a few more pounds in our pockets. He sees it for what it is, a con-trick ( pun intended). The rich want this, of course they do, they have deep pockets and a lot of pennies to hide away. For the rest of us a few pounds will be of no use at all when our roads are not mended, when our schools have no resources, when our local hospitals are overwhelmed, when there are no public services left for the general public who need them.

What use a few pence in our pockets when our politicians refuse to see that they are elected to serve us, but instead believe they were born to rule us?

My boy phoned again when the exit poll came out at 10. I suspect beer had been consumed, and the language was colourful, the emotion earthy, the shock and hurt horrible to hear. By 3am the dream seemed dead, hurt had turned to horror, a better future bartered for a handful of silver.

But I want to say to my son – Pudsey was still your victory. You put compassion into action, and tried to make politics about people, not just empty promises on paper. I want to say that you have made me feel more proud than I have felt angry or sad in the last couple of days, and that is no small achievement.

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