You have to stand up for your political beliefs – even if it means alienating your family

Isn’t it better to celebrate a relative’s individuality than insist they blindly follow your own ideology?

Share

By all accounts, 85-year-old Violet Baker was typical of the generation which had lived through the Second World War and rationing, and which abhorred waste and spending money unnecessarily. Frugality was her watchword: she once accused her neighbour and carer Malcolm Baker (apparently no relation) of stealing 2p after he had done her weekly shop. Mrs Baker, a widow, would be furious with her kind neighbour if he spent more than £10 on her weekly groceries.

Mrs Baker cut her coat according to her cloth, and her coat was austere. So it is little surprise that, before she died in April last year, she decided to leave the vast amount of her estate, £769,000, to the political party of austerity – the Conservatives. David Cameron must be delighted. But her Labour-supporting relatives are not. Mr Baker, the neighbour, got £2,000, but her family did not get a penny.

“Wicked” was how Mrs Baker’s sister-in-law, Elsie Clark, described this reclusive elderly lady, perhaps rather ungenerously. It seems that Ms Clark was more annoyed that Mrs Baker had given her money to the Conservatives, and not Labour, than that she had snubbed her family. The money had been saved up by Mrs Baker’s equally frugal husband Raymond, and Ms Clark, who is Raymond’s sister, said: “All that money was left to her and she didn’t want any of us to get our hands on it. My family was staunch Labour. Our dad was very strict about it. She wouldn’t go out to vote in an election.”

If blood is thicker than water, then political affiliations are thicker than blood. And when those ties are broken, it causes rifts and rows. Liz Truss, the Conservative MP, has spoken of how her Labour-supporting father refused to campaign for her election to Parliament and has still not congratulated her on becoming a minister, 18 months on.

Ukip’s candidate for today’s Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election, John Bickley, says his father was so staunchly left-wing that if you cut him open the word “Labour” would be written all the way through. Ed Miliband has spoken of robust discussions over politics with his Marxist father Ralph when he was growing up – although there was never any rift.

It is easy to see how, with our own children, if we believe we are teaching them everything we know, it can be hurtful if our colour of politics is shunned in favour of a different hue. But with families, isn’t it better to celebrate a relative’s individuality than insist they blindly follow your own ideology? Tribal politics can bring families and communities together, but it is also politics at its most unattractive – unthinking, dogmatic and slavish.

Is it only a coincidence that, in the cases of Mrs Baker, Mr Bickley and Ms Truss, the affronted or shunned relatives are all Labour? The party that Mr Miliband leads may now be open and celebratory, as he has pledged, but the tribalism of some of its supporters, represented by Ms Clark’s comments, hark back to an older version of Labour where to express individualism or – heaven forbid! – talk of voting for another party was met with ostracism.

It is true that Mrs Baker does not sound like the most nurturing and warm-spirited of elderly ladies. But she repaid the kindness of her neighbour with a small bequest. And if she was never really that political, her decision to donate to the Conservatives – the largest ever left in a will to a political party – is not the act of a partisan person but of someone who clearly saw something of herself in the Tories’ hard line on paying down the national debt.

In life, I imagine she became rather tired of her in-laws. Their branding of her as “wicked” shows that they didn’t deserve the money anyway. I quite admire that, in death, she has had the last laugh.

Don’t know your Parthenon from your Pantheon, George?

With the bubbles of controversy over Scarlett Johansson’s SodaStream and Israel row barely subsided, another Hollywood film star has entered dangerous diplomatic waters. George Clooney, who is on a promotional tour of Europe for his new film Monuments Men, has called for the British Museum to give the Elgin Marbles back to Greece. His co-star Bill Murray backed him, saying the Marbles had had a “very nice stay here” but needed to be returned.

Clooney and Murray make a perfectly good point, but they both seem to have become seriously stuck in method acting mode; their new film is about a group of soldiers who rescue looted artwork from the Nazis. Of course, the debate over the Elgin Marbles is more nuanced than the plot of Monuments Men – the Marbles were originally taken from Greece for their own protection and are on display to the general public, not locked in a Nazi mansion. Perhaps if Clooney could pronounce the Parthenon correctly – he said Pantheon – then we could take him more seriously as an art historian?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower