So the big day has arrived. Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and that funny looking one with the pint will all be wondering who likes them the best and whether they’ll have a job to go to tomorrow. Only that fierce wee Scots lass will be getting up with a spring in her step and giggling at the day to come.
It’s the 2015 General Election! *small fanfare on a toy trumpet*
There are a lot of points in each party manifesto and some will be more relevant depending on where you are in life’s journey.
So I have picked out three from each of the main parties that relate to me as a parent, thinking about the next five years.
Having said that I am not a fan of tribal politics. Splitting people off into parents versus pensioners versus young people versus immigrants is divisive and counter productive. We are all people and we are all sharing this island and this world with each other and the rest of the animals and plants on it. So I will also be voting for what I hope benefits society as a whole.
It’s true that our representatives in Parliament may not have the clout they once had, some of that power has leached away to corporations or global organisations. And the system does need reform. But on many matters that affect our daily lives and certainly on taxes and laws they do get to decide a great deal. So if you don’t vote, don’t moan about the outcome.
Anyway, here’s what I found inside the election manifestos.
we will extend free childcare for working parents of three- and four-year-olds from 15 to 25 hours a week.
This is great for our future as childcare is the biggest drain on our finances. I still wish someone would offer free childcare for two year olds or at least subsidise it.
for the first time, all women in labour will be guaranteed personalised one-to-one care from a midwife.
I assume that’s the verb to labour, not the party membership. Anyway, I think this is so important as the constant changing of midwives during Mrs B’s stay in hospital was less than ideal. We did have one wonderful midwife who made a point of coming to see us after the birth but at such a critical moment the calming effect of having someone with you who you know and trust is priceless. To the extent that I think it could even mean fewer assisted births or emergency caesareans.
we will double paid paternity leave, extending its length from two to four weeks.
Obviously I am going to support this one as two weeks really doesn’t give any dad enough time to support his partner or bond with his new baby. They also pledge to increase paternity pay to £260 a week – much more helpful in terms of covering rent or mortgage in that first month.
to bring in tax-free childcare…and give working parents of 3 and 4 year olds 30 hours of free childcare a week.
Thirty hours! Now this is interesting because that is almost enabling whoever takes on the bulk of the childcare to work full time or work flexibly around that free childcare and hopefully earn a decent income. I was suprised to see the Torys go further than Labour on this one.
to ensure a good primary school place for your child, with zero tolerance for failure
Hopefully the zero tolerance applies to the school not your child – I don’t like the idea of David Cameron coming round to tell Baby B off when he hasn’t spelled Diplodocus correctly. They are a bit vague on how this will work, I mean obviously Ofsted will rate the school but what happens if there is a failure and how is it defined?
to protect children
Err, like, duh. I should hope so. But I don’t see any pledge to funding for local children’s services teams who are already overstretched; Frontline isn’t a magic wand. And the bit about age verification to stop access to harmful online content makes me laugh as this is an issue that the brightest internet industry minds are yet to crack. So I’m marking them down a point for this one as it sounds like lazy lip-service in the wake of a series of child protection scandals.
transform young people’s mental health services
I think this is so important as the numbers of young people struggling with depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts is rising every year. I think anyone who needs help with their mental health should be able to get it just as they would if they broke their arm. And if we want the next generation to have long and healthy lives the scandalous lack of services for young people has to be addressed. It is a completely false economy and morally wrong to make children travel miles from home to get help or leave their problems to get worse until they reach crisis point or worse.
give 16 year olds the right to vote in all UK elections
It may seem like a small thing but if we are going to start to increase voter turnout I think getting young people engaged in the political life sooner is a great start. You can get married at 16, fight a war, or have a baby. So you should also have the vote.
give free chldcare to all 2 year olds
Woohoo! What was I saying earlier?! When I read this I nearly fell off my chair. Clegg is promising 20 hours of free childcare a week for all two to four-year olds and all children of working parents from nine months. The thing is of course getting this through once the Liberals are in coalition with whoever they fancy this time. So I won’t hold my breath.
And the Green Party will:
take urgent action on climate change and work with other countries to hold the increase in global temperature to below 2 degrees
Kind of an obvious choice but I’ve included it as I worry the climate has become rather pushed into the background by the economy lately and much as many people wish it would the issue isn’t going away. And now I’m a dad the idea that in fifty years time Baby B may be living in a far more unstable world due to climate change makes me sad. His generation will not look kindly on us for fucking it up. Having said that the Greens do have a mountain to climb but someone’s got to fight the planet’s corner.
scrap university tuition fees
Yes, I had a free higher education back in the 90s and although I did piss a lot of it up various walls I still think without this opportunity I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now. OK a lot of degrees aren’t worth much but many still are and it should not be about how well off your parents are that determines whether you get to have a go at having some letters after your name.
cap rent, introduce longer tenancies and licence landlords to provide greater protection for renters.
As someone who rented into his 40s I am a passionate advocate for a fairer housing system for those who can’t afford to buy but don’t qualify for social housing. The current private rental market is a scam, a way for one section of the population to leach the earnings of everyone who doesn’t have a mortgage. There are some decent landlords out there but in my experience they are the exception. And I am so thankful that I am not bringing up Baby B in the unstable world of living on yearly or six month tenancies and the threat of constant rent rises.
So, there we have it. It’s decision time. Whether you’re in a swing seat or a constituency that’s been the same colour since 1885 get out there come rain or shine and stick your cross in a box.
Baby B is voting for the panda party.
Unless, like us, you’ve already voted by post, in which case get home tomorrow, pop your choice of election coverage on the box and maybe get drunk as you cheer or despair at the higgledy-piggledy shape of our elected body emerging from the ballot boxes!
PS. I don’t care about UKIP and I live in England so although Plaid Cymru and the SNP are progressive parties I can’t vote for them!
Categories: Big Issues