TOM UTLEY: If I ever stood for public office, I’m quite sure even my own sons wouldn’t vote for me
There’s a famous story told in cricketing circles about the election day in the 1980s when the eccentric England wicket-keeper Jack Russell and his Gloucestershire team-mate Bill Athey found themselves playing at Headingley, some 210 miles from the West Country constituency where they were both registered to vote.
Though they harboured very different political views, they were united in their eagerness to perform their democratic duty.
So at the close of play on polling day, they shared a car from Yorkshire to Bristol in order to cast their votes.
On their arrival at the polling station, they duly marked their crosses on the ballot paper — Russell voting for the Labour candidate, Athey for the Conservative.
Indeed, I’ve often reflected that in every election since 2003, when our eldest reached his 18th birthday, the Tories would have stood a fractionally better chance of success if only my wife and I had never produced children
Then they drove all the way back to Yorkshire for the next day’s play, each having effectively cancelled out the other’s vote.
Well, in six days’ time, I will be playing my part in a very similar charade (though, mercifully, it will not involve a 420-mile round trip).
Indeed, it is one that has been played out in my family at every election since the eldest of our four boys reached voting age.
On my way to work in the morning, I will trek down to the polling station, hold my nose, and vote Conservative. Later that day, whichever of our sons happens to be in residence (only one at the moment, though that’s sure to change) will make his own way to that same local church hall — and place his cross in the box next to the name of the Left-wing candidate most likely to keep the Conservatives out.
Thus, the effect of my vote will be cancelled out by the fruit of my own loins.
Indeed, I’ve often reflected that in every election since 2003, when our eldest reached his 18th birthday, the Tories would have stood a fractionally better chance of success if only my wife and I had never produced children.
I thought of my frustrating plight this week, when I read the headline in another paper: ‘Paris mayor’s son admits not voting for her in the election.’
Described as a ‘fresh humiliation’ for the Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo, who won only 1.75 per cent of the vote in the first round of the French presidential election, this was the news that even her 20-year-old boy, Arthur Germain, had failed to back her.
Instead, he admitted that he had voted for Jean-Luc Melenchon, of France Unbowed — a candidate even further to the Left than his mum — who came third in the poll, with 22 per cent of the vote.
‘No, I didn’t vote for my mother,’ young Arthur told the 24-hour news channel BFMTV. ‘I allow myself to have different opinions from those I love.’
All I can say is that if I were ever to stand for public office (don’t panic, boys, I have no plans to do so!), I’m quite certain that none of my sons would vote for me.
Indeed, if I tried to persuade them of the wisdom of low taxes and small government — let alone the advantages offered by Brexit — I know from long, bitter experience that I’d be wasting my breath.
But then, of course, I’m very far from alone in having bred children with views markedly to the Left of my own.
Described as a ‘fresh humiliation’ for the Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo, who won only 1.75 per cent of the vote in the first round of the French presidential election, this was the news that even her 20-year-old boy, Arthur Germain, had failed to back her
After all, post-mortems on election after election have shown that the older we grow — older and wiser, I like to think — the more inclined we are to lean to the Right.
Take the latest general election, in which Boris Johnson so triumphantly increased his majority. Analysis by YouGov shows that if nobody above the age of 30 had been allowed to vote, Jeremy Corbyn — God help us! — would even now be comfortably ensconced in Downing Street.
Among those aged 18-24, a whopping 56 per cent voted Labour, with only 21 per cent backing the Conservatives.
The picture was much the same among those aged 25-29, of whom 54 per cent said they voted Labour against 23 per cent backing Boris’s Conservatives.
It was only among the over-40s the balance tipped the other way, with 41 per cent of 40 to 49-year-olds backing the Tories, and only 35 per cent voting Labour.
Ah, well, they do say that if you’re not a Lefty in your youth, there’s something wrong with your heart; if you’re still a Lefty after the age of 40, there’s something wrong with your brain.
Moving further up the age scale to my own cohort of baby-boomers, aged 60-69, you’ll see that the Tories were firm favourites in 2019, with 57 per cent of us backing Boris, and a mere 22 per cent putting their trust in Corbyn.
In fact, YouGov found that for every ten years older a voter happened to be, the likelihood that he or she voted Tory increased by nine points, with Conservative support among the over-70s reaching as high as 67 per cent.
As we all know, there was a similar disparity between the age groups in the Brexit referendum, with more than 70 per cent of the 18-24s voting Remain, while 60 per cent of the over-65s voted to Leave. On that occasion, if my suspicions are correct, I was outvoted 4-1 by my sons, who swallowed the wild scare stories spread by the false prophets of Project Fear.
But then parents and grandparents throughout history have lamented the generation gap and the folly of their young. Yet we mustn’t despair.
We can always draw comfort from the knowledge that our offspring, too, will grow older one day — with the strong possibility that their advancing age will bring wisdom.
There may even come a time when my vote on election day won’t be instantly rendered futile by my own flesh and blood.
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