The Political Post

I have thought carefully about writing a political post here but this is a blog about the realities of single parenting  and politics are intrinsically linked to those realities.

I’ve never read a Harry Potter book, but a couple of weeks ago, I read this article by J. K. Rowling. Every time I voice to my mother my fears that I might never own a home or pay off my debt, she tells me to think of Rowling.

She was a single mum,” she says, “She wrote those books in a cafe with her baby in a buggy at her side.”

I would be lying if I said that I was raised in poverty. I am certainly not from a wealthy family but I know that there are lone parents far worse off than me. For as long as I have been able to vote, I have been Liberal. I’m disillusioned about the Iraq war and the national debt, but I am pretty sure those things would have happened whoever was in charge. I almost voted Liberal again this time, but I began to think about how things have changed under Labour for millions of single parent families like mine. Rowling might be inconceivably loaded now, but she hasn’t forgotten how things used to be and she won’t vote Tory.

Despite popular opinion, just over half of lone parents work (according to Rowling, 56.3 per cent.) I have mentored on projects to help single parents on to the career ladder and it isn’t easy, but one of the things that makes it possible is the Childcare Tax Credit system. Then there’s Sure Start (both were introduced by the current government.)

I probably wouldn’t have admitted it at the time, but Sure Start played a massive part in keeping me going through the surreality of being a new mother. When breastfeeding turned out not to be serene and easy but an exhausting battle, I was able to sit in a comfortable armchair and speak to an expert who totally understood. I sat in that same chair and spoke to wonderful counsellor too (yes, I needed counselling.) When I needed to get out of the house, I took Tom to play sessions and creches, we could even borrow toys from the Toy Library. The Sure Start centre is a place where all the confusing,  separate agencies that help with the different dilemmas of early parenthood are almagamated and easily accessible.

The Tory Government want to financially reward couples who are married (although I can’t see how £150 a year is sufficient incentive to make people flog the dead horse that is a loveless marriage.) Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all meet our life partners, marry them and live happily ever after? If it was that simple, surely we’d all be doing it. The fact is that things often aren’t perfect and marriage tax breaks would only reward the lucky. As Gordon Brown puts it in this unusually passionate speech, “Good fortune must help more than just those who are fortunate.”

David Cameron has spoken many times of ‘broken Britain.’ The vilification of lone parents (as Rowling points out, more often mothers than fathers) is nothing new. It would be naive of anyone to think that there aren’t single parents who live completely off benefits, but they do not represent us all. Many of us want to be employed, to do the best for our children and ourselves. We are only able to do it with help though, because we play the role of two parents: not just financially but practically and emotionally.

The Conservatives may think that Britain is broken and in many ways it is but for working single parents, the system is robust. It ain’t broke and I won’t be trying to fix it.

(Now I can go back to dreaming about a seven-figure book deal. Maybe I should read a Harry Potter book.)

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “The Political Post

  1. Penny

    As Sarah Keays (abandoned by Tory grandee and famous hypocrite Cecil Parkinson) said once: how come the single mothers who raised children after both world wars were not vilified as inherently morally lax and fiscally feckless?

  2. I completely agree with you. Anything it takes to keep the Tories out. I’m a hardworking single parent and librarian. I’d become the benefit sponge the Tories like to think I am if they are elected tomorrow. Bastards.

  3. Sarah

    I don’t usually comment,but I just wanted to say that I totally agree that under Labour single parents have had a better deal than ever. I’m a lone parent and had the choice between going to back to my trade (baking) where even though I would be on a low wage, WTC and CTC would make that possible, and help with childcare, or going to university to get my degree. I chose university, but trying to bring up children along on a bakers wage would be near impossible without these things in place.
    The stigma of single parenting is something that really gets my goat too. There is a noticable difference in attitude from some people when I tell them I am widowed-as if somehow thats ‘okay’ and that being a lone parent as the result of a relationship breakdown is not. It ties in with the notion that people have this idea that there is a class of ‘deserving poor’ and widows fit into this category.
    Sorry, I could really rant about this all day 😉

  4. Well spoken,you singles are a credit to our country and the labour goverment are real enough to recognize that.
    I am a 59 year old woman and your blog keeps me in touch with the real world, along with the fact that I am bringing up my 7 year old grandaughter, bringing up a child is the most draining yet rewarding priviledge, your blog gives me strength and hope so God bless you and keep writing x

  5. Maggie

    Well said.
    Not only have the last 13 years seen a remarkable achievement in supporting working lone parents but have also regenerated many inner cities and small towns – actually the list of achievements is endless.
    Having been a single, working FT,ma of 3 during the Thatcher years (and the grey man – had the misfortune to actually live in his constituency) I can only rejoice at the excellent support that is now available to encourage either further study or a return to the work place for single parents
    On this auspicious day lets just hope that the electorate has long memories and wont return the nation to the parlous state of the 80’s
    Go Gordon!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Pingback: On This Day… « Max Dunbar

  7. This is what it comes down to. It’s not the soundbites, gaffes, or the gratuitous use of the word change (incidentally the Sun’s use of Cameron as Obama on their cover today made me want to vomit), but its about the real things, the policies which affect our lives.

    As someone brought up in a single parent household in the 1980s I know plenty about disadvantage. I will never ever vote Conservative. In their race to villify single mums they also plunged a generation of children in poverty; something the current government has been working hard to reverse.

  8. Joe

    Totally agree. I’m a bit late to find this post but I feel the same. People want change without knowing what “change” actually is. My son was born in 1996 and I feel we have had so many opportunities (uni, tax credits etc) which I am sooo grateful for. Britain aint broke at all. Things could be so much worse. …

    My son is the biggest Gordon fan ever! In fact all kids I know love Gordon-why can’t others love him too!!

    • myshittytwenties

      Poor Gordon eh? The Sun readers like to get cross about things and they are very easily influenced. Putting Simon Cowell on the front the day before election says it all.

  9. That was a fantastic article by Rowling – it summed up everything I have ever wanted to say about society’s attitude to single parents, but in a much more eloquent way than I could ever manage. I was quite jealous.

  10. Pingback: The Second Political Post « My Shitty Twenties

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