You may have noticed there’s an election coming up. Besuited politicians have been taking part in televised debates and generally flexing their hand-shaking/baby-kissing muscles at every available opportunity.
I live in what’s commonly known as a safe seat. My constituency has been Conservative for 90 years, and my MP feels no need to shake my hand or ask me to vote for him. You might think then, that there is little point in my voting.
You would probably be right. In all likelihood, one month from now, I will still have the same, slightly creepy, besuited Tory representing me in Parliament. The same one who voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits, and very strongly against raising benefits at least in line with prices. As a single parent reliant on benefits, I basically represent everything he hates. He also voted against gay marriage.
It’s fair to say that I have little in common with my MP. When I wrote to him begging for help last year, his response came only when he noticed I’d mentioned his name on Twitter in a less than complimentary manner. And then it was more of a telling off than apology or offer of help. Since then, I’ve avoided him wherever possible.
I spent this Winter shivering under several blankets, unable to afford to adequately heat my home. My income and benefits combined stretched as far as either food or heat, but not both. So hell, yes I’m going to my local polling station on May 7th, and I will put an X against any name other than the man who voted against an increase in benefits at least in line with price rises. It will probably make no difference, but I will make sure my preference is known.
By not voting, we tell the people in power that we don’t care what they’re doing to this country. As a single parent reliant on benefits, I am horrified by the way benefit claimants have been villified by the government in recent years. It feels like single parents, benefits scum and immigrants are being blamed for the gigantic mess this country finds itself in – when really we all know we’re just being used as scapegoats to try and draw attention from the people who are really tearing this country apart.
The gap between the rich and poor is growing.
Use of food banks is growing.
Poverty is growing.
Contrary to what the establishment would have us believe, this is not the fault of Johnny Foreigner. Or me. Or other single parents. Or people who rely on benefits to survive. It is the fault of the people we elected in good faith, and it’s time to hold them accountable for that.
It’s time to ask them why they don’t think people on benefits deserve to receive an increase in line with price increases, when they all enjoy a 9% increase on what was already a rather nice salary, thank you very much.
It’s time to ask why they think it’s ok to charge us for the joke that is the child maintenance service, when anyone who’s ever used it knows it’s not fair or useful – as evidenced a few weeks ago when I asked if they had ever checked up on the income figures my ex reported, and they said “no, he has a right to be believed” (I’m thinking of trying that with my tax return this year)
It’s time to ask them why they think it’s acceptable that two out of three working single parents struggles to make ends meet – and why many two-parent families are in the same boat.
It’s time to ask them exactly what they intend to do, in order to encourage more flexible working so that we stand a fighting chance of getting back on our feet.
In the run-up to elections, we always hear lots of fantastic promises about the things these politicians will do if we elect them. They all claim to be standing for “family” – but when a quarter of the families in the UK are single parent families isn’t it about time the people in expensive suits changed their outdated definition of the word – and accepted us as valid members of society? It seems lately that the government’s definition of “family” involves only those with a white picket fence and an Aga. But those of us living in rented accommodation, working our arses off and doing our level best to keep our heads above water, we’re families too. And we deserve to be treated as such.
When I go to my polling station on May 7th, I will make sure I register my discontent with the current situation. I urge you to do the same.
I live in a safe seat, but many of us do not. For many constituencies, the number of single parents outweighs the margin by which the current MP won the last election. What does that mean? It means if all those single parents get out and vote on May 7th, we might just start to see a change.
Speak to your local candidates. See where they stand on the issues that affect you, and make an educated choice on May 7th.