‘I’m lucky that during my childhood social media wasn’t as prevalent as it is now.’ Photograph: Alamy
The Tory MP Bob Stewart says his son has been singled out by a teacher because of his father’s views. No child should be judged in this way
When I was 14, one of my teachers held me back after class to ask me something. It wasn’t about my contribution to the lesson or my work: it was to ask how my mother was going to vote on Britain’s participation in the Iraq war.
If you didn’t guess from my surname, I’m the daughter of Caroline Flint, the Labour MP for Don Valley, who at the time had represented the constituency for six years. I remember sitting there, confused. Does this guy really think my mum discusses her political moves with a 14-year-old who is more interested in romcoms and her next basketball game than the inner workings of Her Majesty’s government? Apparently so.
“Should you really be asking me that?” I responded. His smile disappeared and he mumbled a few things before dismissing me, so I packed up my belongings and left. That was the moment I realised what it was to be the child of a politician. To be constantly questioned over what your parent thinks about this issue or that, to be forced to engage in a political conversation the minute they find out who your parent is, and to have friends, teachers, co-workers and random strangers tell you exactly what they think about your parent, even when what they have to say is not altogether nice.
This isn’t me complaining though; I am proud of my mother’s work over the past two decades and know that the reason she became an MP was to make this country a better place. I think she’s contributed to that, but hearing Bob Stewart talk about his son being victimised by his teacher because Stewart is a Conservative MP makes me rather sad. Why should a 13-year-old be singled out because of his father’s job, or because their teacher doesn’t agree with the parent’s political stance? Take Stewart’s job out of the equation and make him just a dad who voted Conservative. Would the teacher still be telling his students to not talk to his son? Probably not.
I’m lucky that during my childhood social media wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. I didn’t have to see nasty comments about my mother on Twitter, or have people replying to me with their own two cents about her politics on my Facebook page, like I do today. Now children have to face a whole different kind of peer-abuse that cannot really be monitored by schools, so it’s upsetting that a teacher would instigate bullying practices in his own classroom, just because he’s offended by a child’s political family.
It’s an irresponsible and unacceptable abuse of power as well as a bad lesson for what the teacher’s students should expect in the future. You’re not always going to be engaging or working with people who share the same political views as you. I have friends who are Tories, some who voted Liberal Democrat or Green, and some didn’t vote at all. Some who were pro-Brexit, many who were against. A lot who love Jeremy Corbyn, some who do not, and one who once tried to perform a citizen’s arrest on Tony Blair. Never have I thought to cut them out of my life because of our political differences. That is what living in a democracy is all about – accepting that not everyone has the same opinions as you, but having the freedom to debate them without the fear of abuse.
In five years’ time, Stewart’s son may not even vote Conservative, just like plenty of other MPs’ children whose views end up being in opposition to their parents. So why at 13, or at any age, should they be judged by their parent’s choices?
I’m 29 now and have become quite resilient when people question me about my mother, something that has increased tenfold since I became a journalist and more politically outspoken on social media. Sometimes I engage with their comments, but most of the time I do not because being a child of an MP doesn’t automatically mean you are a mouthpiece for their politics. We have our own thoughts, beliefs and political views that may or may not align with our parent’s, and we should be judged on them alone.
Source By theguardian.com