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

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee