Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Mum’s Last Vote

Posted on: November 23, 2019

For some time, my parents had postal votes. Outside the Jewish residential home where they lived their last years, there was a plaque dedicated to a notable local MP who had officially opened the building: Margaret Thatcher.

As Labour voters, they were never fans of Mrs Thatcher but neither did they display any noticeable animus when they referred to her.

In the 1970s, my mother used to buy clothes in a store called Owen and Owen in North Finchley. One day in the changing cubicle, she heard a familiar voice from the other side of the curtain – the unmistakable, saccharine tones of the Secretary of State for Education and Science.  My parents both related this with surprising glee as an anecdote, but when the General Election came around in 1979, James Callaghan got their vote. It could not be otherwise: Labour was always their choice. When I was young, I asked them if they ever thought of voting Communist, like a few other members of the family, but they said no, they were not Communists.

My sister and I and our husbands and our children, when the time came, voted Labour.

By 2017, my father had died. In the run up to the General Election of 8 June, I asked my mother if she needed help with her postal vote. She did. She produced the form. Following her stroke in 2012, she was not easily able to wield pencil or pen, which was a particular loss to her as she had loved drawing. Now she was ninety-seven; the strength in her arms and legs had gone, but she knew about the forthcoming election and the function of the postal vote.

I sat beside her wheelchair with the form on my lap and the pen in my hand.

‘How do you want to vote?’ I asked.

She hesitated.

‘I think I’ll do what I always do,’ she said. ‘Shall I?’

‘Labour?’ I said.

‘Yes, Labour,’ replied Mum and I put a cross in the box beside the name of the Labour candidate.

For myself, I did not intend to vote Labour in that General Election because Jeremy Corbyn was now the Leader of the Opposition. Ill reports had reached me, long before his rise to prominence, of his friendships with and support for a range of antagonists who had Israel and sometimes Jews in general in their sights.

I took the sealed envelope away and the next day noticed it was still  on the dashboard of my car. I had forgotten to post it which I supposed was parapraxis, and I made sure to catch the next post so that it would arrive in ample time.

That was my mother’s last vote. As she said herself, she did what she had always done and voted Labour. I did what I had never done in a General Election and voted other than Labour.

Yesterday, I saw a little film by the always entertaining Maureen Lipman, in which she revived her Beattie character for the anti-extremism campaign, Mainstream.

As ever, Beattie is on the phone and we only hear her side of the conversation.

‘My mother always said, “This is a kind and a decent country,”’ says Beattie. “They will always do the decent thing.”

‘Well if that’s the case, why would anybody vote for this Labour Party?

‘Of course, we were all Labour, everybody voted Labour. I voted Labour all my life.’

Thank you, Maureen Lipman and Mainstream, because the video seemed to me to get to the heart of the matter.

Mum died two years ago this day, at the age of ninety-eight. I am glad that she voted Labour, the last time she voted. I would not have wanted her to know what I know, what Maureen Lipman knows and what Beattie knows.

maureen

 

 

 

 

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  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: I've approved your comment Jones, rather than trashing it. It seems to me a snapshot of contemporary online exegesis. Can you say something about you
  • Jones: You're just a typical white racist tory who has no problems with Windrush deportations or tory Islamaphobia. You get no support from the BAME communit
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Thank you Joanne!
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