As I walked my fathers dog this morning, I noticed that the Bluebells were showing themselves amongst the green growth of spring. A year ago I wrote this post as a homage to my dad and his passionate belief that engaging with politics is a civic duty, an entitlement to vote which we must not squander, an ability to speak our minds and criticise those in power gifted to us by those who came before. He was already talking about this election a year ago, he knew it was going to be interesting and was looking forward to engaging in the election process. The day after the election will be exactly one year since he died. My mother is finally listening to music again, watching Jools Holland this week and asking me to find out about some artist that my dad would have liked. I have stopped automatically going to email my dad links to interesting articles, I still haven’t deleted his email address and still wish I could ask his opinion on the latest political story, each of us taking turns in the role of devils advocate, ever argumentative.
Three weeks ago my father died, he had not been ill, he was comparatively young at 65, he was passionate, intelligent and most importantly he was my cheerleader .. In his eyes I could hardly do no wrong and if I did it was forgiven quickly and completely. He was a surrogate father to my daughter when her own father left, he made sure that she and I had a holiday each year. He filled my house full of wonderful objects found in French flee markets and small auction houses. He gave me my love of music, a sense of style and a deep and passionate interest in politics.
He grew up in Cotteridge, a solidly lower middle/working class neighbourhood of Birmingham. His father, the son of Catholic Irish immigrants, worked for the council as a clerk and his fiercely intelligent mother .. she taught herself languages, worked in war munitions and then did the traditional thing of looking after the home. When he was 19 he met my mother, she took him to meet her parents in Sussex and when they passed a field full of bluebells he made her parents stop the car so he could go and take a look, a city boy full of wonder at a field full of blue – just last month he urged me to go for a walk with him in the woods by his home to see the bluebells. He was endlessly interested in everything and for the last year he was fascinated by the rise of UKIP.
My father voted in every election. He voted for the same party his whole life, a socialist to the core he despised Thatcher and all she stood for. He could not understand how labour voters were being hoodwinked by ukip, a party that would extend the Thatcherite legacy in the direction of her beloved Pinochet. Whilst he rose up the ranks of management in Sainsburys, his colleagues became ever more likely to be tories and yet he never moved to the right, never flinched from his belief that the state has a role to play in protecting the individual.
To him Nigel Farage was akin to Enoch Powell and Oswald Mosley. Preying on people’s fears by blaming a minority in the community, great orators but lousy people. He had witnessed it growing up as an Irish Catholic in Birmingham .. the demonising of a group. My father taught me that the real problems were not down to individuals or minority groups but an economic system that favoured a few whilst exploiting the rest. Ultimately he saw UKIP and it’s brand of libertarianism as selfish. A desire to protect the rights of some to say and do as they wish whilst removing the rights of others to be protected from their actions by the state.
He saw the right to vote as sacrosanct, a view that he passed on to me. If we do not vote we allow the passionate on the fringes to dictate to the rest of us. It does not take long to vote, it’s not a chore. It’s a right, hard fought for by generations of women and men. Generations who would now be horrified to see a party gain power that wishes to remove the fundamental rights that have been gained in the last 50 years for the ordinary working person.
My father was flawed, of course he was, we all are. He was opinionated, occasionally overly so. He had little patience with ignorance or laziness. He was way to fond of telling his 43 year old daughter to get a hair cut! But, he stuck to his principles. When he was disillusioned with new labour he did not throw the baby out with the bath water, as so many have, instead he worked hard to influence the party from the inside.
For Christmas this year he gave me a years subscription to the New Statesman and The spectator .. He never wanted to tell me what to think politically but he wanted to ensure I was always informed. For the next six months every Friday I will be reminded of my dad as I open both and settle down to read. I will continue to rail against the right, ukip the tories and others. I will always vote, I won’t sit back and and I will never allow a few to dictate to the majority.