Opinion: Politics? It’s child’s play

Toys debate politicsPity, poor Tristram Hunt. On the campaign trail the other day he made the classic mistake of asking a young child how he was going to vote.

Child: “UKIP”

Hunt: “Oh why is that then?

Child: “Because they’ll get all the foreigners out of the country”

To adapt the old adage: Never do politics with children and animals!

For a candidate kids are a minefield but as a parent I’ve been struck by how interested my kids (one pre- teen and one mid primary) have been in this their “first” General Election. They even staged their own election debate with toys which of course I enjoyed as much as they did!

There isn’t much help for parents attempting to introduce their kids to politics and political history.

Even really young American children have reading books about the Founding Fathers, Lincoln and the Roosevelts. Imagine the laughing stock a British parent would be if she went into a bookshop and asked for: “Gladstone and Disraeli for toddlers” or “Learn to read with the Tolpuddle Martyrs”

When I was a child I can remember adult TV bandying around inexplicable terms like: “Watergate”, “the closed shop” and “the troubles”. This time I have made (no doubt hamfisted) attempts to explain: “austerity”, “zero hours contracts”, “free schools” and why the Scottish Parliament has “posh” individual desks whilst the Commons only has manky shared benches!

And have I taught the little darlings to be Liberal Democrats? Well they very much liked the itv profile of Nick (and Miriam) but I have to admit my son also has a soft spot for Natalie and my daughter thinks Leanne is “awesome”. Oh well…they love music too so at least they are word perfect on the tuition fees song, the lyrics every parent and Liberal Democrat should know: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry. There’s no easy way to say I’m sorry…”

* Ruth Bright has been a councillor in Southwark and Parliamentary Candidate for Hampshire East

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  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 30th Apr '15 - 1:34pm

    I love the debate, Ruth. What sort of questions were asked?

    About 18 months ago, we featured a post from Ellie Levenson who was seeking funding to publish a book on Democracy for Toddlers that she had written. https://www.libdemvoice.org/the-independent-view-democracy-for-toddlers-37098.html

    The finished result is now available and winging its way to me. If I get time before the election, I’ll do a quick review when it comes.

  • Helen Dudden 30th Apr '15 - 1:35pm

    Disraeli would not have the chance if he were still a Jew who attended a Shul.

    How things have changed, we could be getting our first Jewish Prime Minister. It took the first Jewish MP eight years before he broke through the prejudices of those times.

  • matt (Bristol) 30th Apr '15 - 1:49pm

    Charlie and Lola Explore Irish Home Rule And Its Role In British Party Politics Since 1868…

    I wonder if my kids would let me try a few ideas out on them at bedtime?

  • Ruth Bright 30th Apr '15 - 1:56pm

    matt (Bristol) I hate you that is much better than my ideas!

    Caron – I have to confess that the Sylvanian families passively watched as their human mentors performed in the real thing!

  • I would normally recommend this:

    “People who help us: Member of Parliament” starring our own Ed Davey. But it seems to be out of print and they are asking £42 for a rare copy!!

  • David Allen 30th Apr '15 - 5:26pm

    Would you want a Sylvanian as your next door neighbour?

  • Ruth Bright 30th Apr '15 - 5:52pm

    David Allen you are very naughty!

    Actually Sylvanians are a bit UKIP. They wear 50s clothes and are a bit retro – but not in a good way.

  • Matt (Bristol) 1st May '15 - 12:29am

    Ruth, I bottled it. I couldn’t work out how to explain Parnell’s relationship with Mrs O’Shea for 2-year olds.

  • Ruth Bright 1st May '15 - 9:06am

    Matt I think Jonathan Calder has trumped both of us by running on his blog a piece about an episode of the Clangers called “Vote for Froglet” aired during one of the 1974 General Elections and I don’t think he’s made it up!

    Thank you all so much for your comments and book suggestions.

    Mary – the children’s book on the work of an MP looks great but as you say I suppose £42 would be better spent on a donation to Kingston Lib Dems rather than on a book about Ed Davey!!

    Helen – I suppose after last night’s Question Time we might not get our first (or second?) Jewish PM – but I digress.

  • Ruth, perhaps I ought to get my copy signed and then auction it with a reserve price of £200

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