Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Nailing my colours to the mast

I wasn't going to do it. But then Alice posted and she was right - the silence in my blogging community about the election is deafening. I have to admit I have felt very exposed writing this post, and I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with me.

I first started getting hot under the collar after the announcement that the Conservatives would allow married people to transfer a portion of their unused tax allowance to their spouse. So if both Mr Coffee and I earned £10,000 each we wouldn't qualify. But if Mr Coffee earned £40,000 and I stayed at home we'd get an extra £150. Most families have to sit down and work out just how much more money a second wage will bring in, after childcare. The Conservative policy throws in £150 in favour of not going back to work, along with the threat of cutting the tax credits that help with childcare costs. I read recently this post with which I completely sympathise, regarding the lack of financial provision for stay at home parents. But we are who we are, and as a feminist I believe that my ability to work part-time - and to arrange that work so that I can pick my children up from school - is important. If there were just as many stay-at-home dads as stay-at-home mums, maybe I wouldn't be so cross. But that isn't the case.

The Conservatives, in opposition, voted against extended maternity leave, against paternity leave, against the right to request flexible working. These are modern, family-friendly policies which allow women to strike a balance and continue their careers - if they so wish - after having children.

When Eldest was diagnosed as having cerebral palsy I had just returned to work. I'd decided not to return to my old job - one with very fixed working hours - but to work in an organisation with a flexi-time system. There were many medical appointments, many missed days and made-up hours, and I believe that if I had returned to my old job I would simply have had to hand in my notice.

Now, as the parent of a disabled child, I have the right - along with my husband - to take up to 18 weeks' parental leave until her 18th birthday, changes made under a Labour government. Not that I expect David Cameron, for all his family experience, to do anything to help parents of disabled children, any more than I expected Margaret Thatcher to help women. (And what guarantee of special needs inclusion would we have in his proposed community-run schools? His insistence in a recent news story that "we will end the bias towards the inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools" has sent a massive chill down my spine. Because I have a very happy disabled child in a mainstream school and secondary school choices are not too far away.)

The £150 tax break is also ominously useless for single parents, and having been brought up by a single mother who held down three part-time jobs to support me as a child, I find that insulting. But anything I wished to say about the Conservative Party's views on single mothers has been far more eloquently said by the author JK Rowling in The Times, so there's no need for me to go over it again.

The last few years under Labour haven't been that groundbreaking. But my honest belief is that a lot was achieved in the first few years, and they can't keep endlessly pulling new rabbits out of hats just to make people gasp in amazement. David Cameron may look fluffy, but I really do fear the rabbits he's poised to pull out of that top hat he's got stashed under his podium. I really, really do.


  1. Brava! Devil in the detail, and all that.

  2. What can I say, I understand your concerns regarding schooling, my boys are my number one priority, but I would rather they pay me to have my children, other than paying me to go back to work via working tax credits.

    The fact is that I can not find a term time, school hours job for the life of me. I am looking, I refuse to let the boys be latch key children, but dont have anyone to help out. My old company didnt have the flexiblity I needed, so I didnt have any option.

    I dont feel that any party provides for what I need nad my hope if for a hung parliment, in that proportional representaiton was introduced and then maybe, just maybe my voice could be heard

  3. Good for you! I'm all for speaking up for what you believe in - arguing out policy leads to an all around better understanding of it and its makers.

  4. er........silence?

    ........What silence?

  5. Good for you.

  6. Completely agree with you.
    My son has cerebral palsy and goes up to, mainstream, secondary school in September.
    Cameron frightens me, in so many ways.

  7. I just wanted you to know that your post has made me reconsider my position on the family policies of the Conservative and Labour parties. Thank you for making me think.

  8. You have made me ashamed of being too mired in nappies to pay enough attention to these things. I have to admit to being beguiled by Nick Clegg's straight talking during the debates but frankly I have not made sure I know exactly what's going on in the manifestos regarding family. I am going away to remedy this right away. Thankyou.

  9. Good on you coffee lady. Well spoken.

  10. Well said - I think it is brave to say what you think and I was worried you might be pro Tory but thankfully not.

    I think people think change will mean prosperity but that is nonsense and one has to look at the real picture.

    Gordon Brown might not be the best advert for a PM but this is not decision to be made on personality or the ability to project one.

    I hope you feel pleased with yourself and know that many agree with you. I would rather all children went to school together so as a society understanding and acceptance increased. When I went to primary school we had a deaf unit and I have grown up with a view that thinks about others and their perspectives.

  11. Me too. Well done with that post. Its not about personality its about underlying fundamental principles. It struck me that I have never voted for whats best for 'me' but what I judge to be best for those less fortunate and the community in general.Is that foolish?

  12. Hear hear. And whilst she gets nothing but hostile comments in the press, including those of a horribly misogynistic nature, let's not forget Harriet Harman and her attempts to introduce flexible working hours for parents in the work place. And if we get it, then it will be extended to everyone, with or without children.

    Does she deserve the abuse she gets? No, no she doesn't. But she gets it because she's a woman and it makes me so. bloody. angry.


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