Tuesday, July 23, 2024
HomeElection WatchWhen I were a lad – growing pains of the party leaders

When I were a lad – growing pains of the party leaders


IN THEIR frantic attempts to persuade people to vote for their parties, Messrs Starmer, Sunak and Davey have been going to extraordinary lengths to describe the privations of their youth. 

Sir Keir Starmer KCB, KC, BLM, TC

Yes, life was tough. Have I mentioned that my father was a toolmaker? Every weekday he would come home late at night covered from head to toe in sweat, grease and oil. Shortly before I went to bed he would slump, unwashed, in front of the fire and tell us of the wonderful tools he had made that day. Because of underinvestment at his place of work he would regularly encounter problems with his lathe or the fettling machine. Sometimes he would have to go on his hands and knees for several hours to tighten the wobblegrommits and he was always having trouble with the malfunctioning vagglegear. I vividly recall the evening he broke down in tears as he told us about the widgets that were the wrong size for the tinsnips he had been making. I don’t think he ever got over that. Whenever I see a widget I find it difficult not to weep.

I rarely saw my toolmaking father at weekends as he retreated to the garden shed to design new tools. He was particularly proud of his invention, the Starmer Grindlegrinder, but by the time he perfected his design the heyday of the grindle was long gone and the Grindlegrinder never found a market.

Oxted, where I grew up, was in a particularly deprived part of the Surrey commuter belt. Several of our neighbours could not afford Jaguars and had to make do with second-hand Mercedes. 

At the posh selective grammar school I was forced to attend, I told my classmates that my father was an astronaut or a secret agent. But eventually the truth came out and, thereafter, I was mercilessly teased about my father’s toolmaking job. The other children despised me and said disgusting things that involved the word ‘tool’. Despite this abuse, I stayed on in the sixth form even after it became a hated fee-paying independent school. 

It is a testament to my character that against all the odds, and the country being under the jackboot of the wicked Thatcher regime, this son of a humble toolmaker managed to claw his way to Leeds and Oxford Universities and inexplicably become a hero to millions of working class oiks.

Rishi Sunak WEF

The weekends were the worst. I rarely bothered with terrestrial television during the week because my spare time was mostly spent scrutinising the price of copper on the Tokyo Metals Exchange, but come Saturday morning, and the exchange being shut, I would be bereft. 

All my friends (Dominic and Justin) had Sky TV. On Monday mornings they would take perverse pleasure by describing in great detail the championship darts, international curling or the American wrestling they had assiduously viewed. I often felt that they only watched those programmes to upset me. 

In desperation I would watch Noel’s House Party on the BBC and I became quite fond of Mr Blobby. I have to admit that to keep myself sane I would draw a picture of a dartboard, stick it on to the family television screen with Sellotape and imagine I was watching championship darts on Sky. I still have that picture.

Now of course I can afford all the Sky Channels, including Sky Cinema. Ironically, because of my Government’s policies, Sky is far too expensive for everyone else.

Sir Ed Davey (He/him)

I just love the ocean. Sadly, I was born in Mansfield which is about as far from the sea as anywhere in the country. When I was a boy I looked forward to my family’s annual day trip to Mablethorpe, but it always seemed to be raining in February and I had to spend those damp days playing bingo or spending my meagre pocket money on slot machines. I never saw the beach. When I got home I would spend hours in the bath with my plastic submarine pretending that I was swimming in the North Sea.

Fortunately, this election campaign has allowed me to spend most of my time falling into water. I have no idea why I have been told to do it. I can only guess that it is to distract people from my lack of personality and our bonkers manifesto.

Perhaps by July 4 I will have fallen out of love with the ocean or drowned.

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John Ellwood
John Ellwood
John is the father of four beautiful girls. He is, thankfully, not knowingly related to Tobias Ellwood. ‘My Dear Friends . . . ’ a compilation of many of John’s contributions to TCW Defending Freedom is available in paperback and on Kindle.

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