“David Cameron is a bad man. He is on the blue team and they are nasty and don’t like sharing or looking after poorly people or people who don’t have jobs. He wants to shut down the surestart and the library because he is rich and doesn’t like them. He is a poo head.”
OK, so it isn’t exactly Polly Toynbee, but that is my four year old daughter’s take on politics. She knows a little bit about political parties (or the red, blue and yellow teams, as she calls them), and a little bit about unions and strikes. She plays at being a suffragette and she loved going to the Durham Big Meeting earlier this year. She is, most probably, more politically aware than many adults.
Yet it is unavoidable that she is getting a biased view – both me and my husband are left wing, the newspaper in the house is the Guardian and she has been taken on marches against cuts and met the local Labour MP and councillors. While she is pottering about the house doing four year old things, she will have overheard left wing conversations, and recently she asked to decorate her biscuits with hammers and sickles, because she liked her Daddy’s t shirt. Even her school has a banner that they bring out for local events to march with the old mining union banners.
Occasionally, this troubles me. Am I being a bad parent by encouraging this at such a very young age? Am I simply storing up trouble for the future, when she will rebel and become some kind of massive Tory?
With a politically aware family, though, I’m not even sure how we could avoid explaining things, at least on a very basic level. We have always said that we will try our best to answer questions from our children, and that we will encourage curiosity, and she is constantly learning, like all small children. Short of hiding the newspapers and books, turning off the radio and TV and sending her to a babysitter for every march and event, she is going to notice politics, and it is going to be a biased view. Even the least political families will have to explain things like the teachers being on strike and the concept of voting, we have just gone a little further.
Just as religious families bring their children up in their value system, so we do the same. Of course, we tell her that there are other ways of thinking, and that people have reasons for thinking like that and they might not just be bad, but she puts her own spin on things. We have the luxury at the moment of not being totally immersed in immediate political issues, unlike the people who lived in our town during the miner’s strike, but I do think it is vitally important that children grow up to understand how politics affects our lives.
Plus, David Cameron IS a poo head.