Petty politicians should think of children

19:12, Jun 24 2014

On your marks, get set . . . yeah, nah.

That pretty much sums up my enthusiasm for this race towards the elections, now less than three months away.

I'm not usually like this. I like a bit of politics. Robust debate, cut and thrust, ideological discussion. It's what we do at our place. Always have.

There was a great-grandfather who would raise an arm and say in his Lancashire lilt, "See this hand? I'd rather cut it off than vote Tory".

Then, parents who voted Tory. My mother, as she puts it, "baked cakes for the National Party" for decades.

Dinner party chat not only included politics but politicians.


A gathering at our neighbours' place (I was always recruited to pass around the nuts) memorably featured then-prime minister Rob Muldoon putting his billiard cue through a window.

At 16, I dabbled with Social Credit and invited the local candidate over to talk through policy. My parents were horrified.

Bless me - it was my first proper attempt at teenage rebellion. They would probably have preferred a bit of shoplifting.

But I was curious and I've stayed that way over the years. Never card-carrying but always engaged, and happy to get off the couch and do something when the need arises.

Alice Walker says activism is the rent you pay for living on the planet. I try not to fall behind.

Right now? Meh. It's not that there aren't issues on the table.

I can easily make you a list of things that make me shout at the TV while watching the news of an evening. Our national table is fairly groaning with big steaming bowls of issues.

Problem is, our leading politicians aren't sitting at the table. They're off brawling in the corner by the bar. Voters are left to sit like bewildered children in a dysfunctional family as the grown-ups bicker over small things - letters, the price of milk, who else they had dinner with once, cups of tea and coat-tails.

I fantasise about calling in a therapist who might sit them all down and get them to refocus and make a proper list of the things they can agree to disagree on.

"For the sake of the children", they'd be told. And we could all sit there with sad, wide eyes till they appreciated how much their fighting hurts us.

Not all politicians. Recently, I asked one - not himself in the eye of a storm, but caught up like all of them in its swirling madness - how he kept his will to live.

"I think about the people I do this for. I keep a clear picture of them in my head. And I remember why I wanted to do this in first place."

There are more like him. Let's hear from them. If people like me are tempted to stay on the couch, pull up a rug and flick over to a cooking show, we're in a great deal of trouble.

The Press