The Truth About Being A Politician’s Child

It was a Friday morning in 1992, Britain had just had an election, and I was on an ice rink. No special reason. You’re in Edinburgh, you’re a posh teenager, it’s the Christmas or Easter holidays, weekday mornings you go to the ice rink. It was a thing. Maybe it still is.

I was only quite recently posh at the time, having moved schools, and I was — in both a figurative general sense and literal ice-skating sense — still finding my feet. My new boarding-school life was pretty good, though. The way you went ice-skating in the holidays was a bit weird, granted, but you could smoke Marlboro at the side and it was a chance to meet girls. Even better, they were girls’-school girls, who had nobody to compare you against. Always my favourite.

Both my parents had been out at the count the night before, with my mother watching my father unexpectedly not crashing out of government. Possibly I’d been at a friend’s house, but I don’t recall. Either way, I was early to the rink and listlessly skated around by myself until I spotted a guy who was a friend of a friend. I remember it clearly. He was wearing a Barbour.

‘Quite a night!’ he said, or words to that effect.

‘Yes,’ I said, warily.

‘I didn’t think we’d win!’ he said cheerfully, and skated off.

We. I’ve never forgotten it. I was 15. My father had been a Conservative politician since I was minus three, and never before had somebody of my own age said the word ‘we’ to me and meant the Tories. Why would they? Being Conservative, as far as I knew, was this odd thing that only my family did, much like the way we were Jewish. When other people raised the issue, which they did often, it was invariably to point out that they or their families were something else.

This was Scotland in the 1990s. I mean, no wonder, right? My mother, who worked for the NHS, used to get the same. ‘I don’t agree with your politics, but…’ was how people apparently used to start every conversation. When I was in the car with my dad, people would quite often flick V-signs or shout things at traffic lights. He’d smile and wave. We’d be stopped on the street, too, even by people who weren’t wholly sure who he was. ‘You’re that guy…’ they’d say. ‘I do the weather,’ he’d say. ‘Oh yeah,’ they’d say.

I’m not whining. Or if I am, I really don’t mean to be. This stuff wasn’t torture. It didn’t remotely negate an otherwise quite glorious adolescence, replete with the sorts of advantages I’m sure you’ll be itching to tell me about in the comments. But it was there. Quite often, I get the sense that people have an entirely erroneous conception of what life is like in a political family. You do not, as appears to be commonly understood, grow up in an atmosphere of certainty and entitlement. Instead you grow up wary and a little nervy; prematurely aware both that not everybody thinks as you do, and of the seemingly bottomless willingness of other-wise pleasant humans to blithely consider people they don’t really know to be absolute scum. In Alan Hollinghurst’s otherwise wonderful The Line of Beauty, the one thing that never rang true to me was the rather cultish loyalty of Gerald Fedden’s family. In real life, at least in my experience, politicians neither get this nor expect it. Or at least no more than anybody else does.

Politicians’ families are the bit of their lives you don’t often see. Which is how it should be. Blair splayed his out for public consumption, and surely regrets it now. Cameron did the same for a while, but seems to have thought better of it. Gordon Brown leaving Downing Street with his two boys was a beautiful moment, precisely because the world had never seen them before. In an interview with Nigel Farage’s wife, Kirsten, after last week’s election, I was reminded that the Ukip leader has four children between the ages of eight and 27. With a surname like that, I do not envy them their life today, nor for the next five years. I wonder how long it takes new people to ask. Nick Clegg’s oldest will be pushing 12 about now. Same.

Addressing a charity lunch a week or so ago, Sarah Vine, the wife of Michael Gove, told her audience that she had considered sending her small children to Italy so as to spare them the ordeal of being told by other children in the playground that nobody liked their dad. Her comments, unsurprisingly, were reported in pretty much every newspaper. Nothing else happened, though. Fleet Street has an army of columnists, many of whom exist to link the personal to the political and will often do so with the most tenuous of hooks. Not one of them dived into this. Nobody asked about it on Question Time. There was no Twitter storm. Nothing.

Obviously, politicians should not be able to hide behind those silent and bewildered children in their homes. Those in the front line know the deal, from Clegg to Gove to Farage. Some political kids end up nuts or in public life, others end up both, or neither. Probably, on average, it’s a boon. But I worry about the way that public sentiment seems to have no technique for connecting with Vine’s revelation; to condemn it or explain it or excuse it or do anything other than simply pretend it just didn’t happen. Back when I was a gossip diarist, I had a sticker on my monitor which read ‘remember people are people’. Politics is pretty ugly right now. I think it might be time to get another one.

9 Monumental Advantages and Disadvantages of Political Parties

Political parties play a vital role in a democracy. A country can only be considered democratic if its elections are proven to constitute a real competition between two or among several candidates who may be backed by political parties or are running independently.

Political parties are organized groups of people who share a set of similar political aims and opinions and aim to influence public policy by getting their candidates elected. The main functions of these parties are to present their candidates and electoral campaigns to the electorate. But they also perform many other tasks in a democratic country. For one, they serve as institutionalized mediators between society and the duly elected representatives who are responsible for deciding and implementing policies. To illustrate, legislators who are affiliated with a political party and meet with civil society representatives seek opinions from individuals or organizations in the process of formulating public policy. By doing so, they are allowing the demands of their members and supporters to be represented in a parliament and in the government.

In a democratic society, political parties perform key duties, including the following:

  • Seeking public policy priorities and civic needs and issues identified by their members and supporters.
  • Educating the people how the political and electoral system and general political values work.
  • Balancing contrasting demands and turning them into general policies.
  • Encouraging citizens to participate in political decisions and turning their opinions into policy options for all.
  • Acting as a mediator between the public and the government.
  • Choosing and training candidates who are worthy to be elected to public office.

Every political party has internal functions that are determined by external forces, such as political culture, electoral system and legal regulations. But internal processes such as the ideological foundations, party history, personality of leaders and staff members and internal political culture are more influential to a party’s internal functions.

In the United States, there is what they call the two-party system. This means that there are two major parties that dominate the elections and the government. Although this nature of political system has its benefits in promoting good for all people, there are those who criticized it for its disadvantages.

To be able to determine whether having two political parties is actually beneficial to a country or not, it is important to know the advantages and disadvantages of having them.

List of Advantages of Political Parties

1. Political parties are able to present political information to the voting population in a manner that is readily understandable.
By doing so, there is order in the country through the representation of broad political philosophy of the group. As a result, voters become aware of every party’s stance on certain issues. A good example would be the 2012 Presidential Election between Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Barack Obama. Each candidate represented major issues of their respective parties to the public.

2. Political parties provide balance through the accommodation of various interests and opinions.
Both political parties are organized groups with differing political views, which make it important for political parties to make decisions that will favor not only few but also all interests and opinions to keep the loyalty of their supporters.

3. Political parties prevent unexpected shifts in political trends that threaten stability in the government.
The US’ two-party system helps promote stability in the government because there will only be two parties sharing power, which can dissolve or change coalitions immediately. Now, if voters disagree on one political issue, they would generally understand that the candidates represent bigger issues that need more attention. This discourages voters from giving up their support for their party. Additionally, elected officials will have time to focus on long-term policies that benefit the public.

4. Political parties encourage political participation.
As a democratic nation, America allows its citizens to freely express their opinions and to support the political party that shares their interest and opinion. Unlike China, the US government encourages the public to participate and cast their votes at the polls. Hence, the public can contribute in making significant changes that will benefit everyone.

List of Disadvantages of Political Parties

1. Political parties might have a selfish propaganda that could hurt national interest.
When political parties carry vested interests and vicious propagandas that benefit only a few and are against other parties, it damages the country’s political environment. And when a certain group cares more for its members rather than the entire country, it does not only harm the political atmosphere, but also disturbs the nation’s peace and order.

2. Political parties could create factionalism.
A country with a party system could render political life artificial. It could create animosity between parties, encourage jealousy and develop occasional riots and insurrection. As a result, the public is forced to form factions because they could not agree on certain levels.

3. Political parties could ruin individuality.
There may be parties that expect or force the people support and share their views blindly. They might not allow its own people to criticize their shortcomings. In short, the people may not be allowed to form their individual opinions on certain issues because they are expected to follow what their party is telling them.

4. Political parties could encourage corruption.
There will be parties that distribute money to the electorate to secure votes for their candidates. Aside from that, their candidates may be making promises only to persuade the voting population into electing them. But once they are elected into office, they might never deliver to their promises. They might also place those who supported them in higher positions in exchange for their votes.

5. Political parties could deprive the country of talented individuals who can contribute to its success.
This is because people from the opposition parties are most likely excluded from participating in the government for the betterment of the entire nation.

When managed properly, political parties can help encourage the people into participating during elections. This ensures that the government officials appointed into different public offices will serve the majority, not only a few.