Labour pains – is this my midlife crisis?

FOR A time today, I considered the possibility of becoming a politician. The Labour Party is encouraging non-party members from the business world to apply for coaching as a councillor or even a MP at the next election.

It was a tempting idea and I had a good think about my suitability and prospects.

I care about fairness and social justice. I grew up on a council estate in a post-industrial town in the north east. I was the first in my family to attend university (as was the Duchess). I mostly read the Guardian, support lost causes (not least Middlesbrough FC), give to charity. I cut my professional teeth at a global blue-chip and for the last seven years I’ve had an inside view of a big Government agency charged with increasing affordable housing (a potential vote-winning issue). I work in communications, so I understand the media, the possibilities of technology, the art of promotion. The Duchess  and I have already began indoctrinating our children in The Ways of the (Centre) Left.

However… I’ve never cared enough about fairness and social justice to join a protest group, campaign, do much other than retweet the arguments of those who do and occasionally sign online petitions. I now live in a nice part of north Leeds and merely grumble at the idea of paying £4 for a pint. I’ve worked for big commercial firms but I’m not a businessman. I might know how to craft media-friendly prose but I’m a behind-the-camera operator, leaving it to the proper business people to step out into the public glare.

While we’re on the subject of my flaws, I lack confidence at times, I’m an awkward, sometimes shy, slow-burner of a man. I’ve got a right potty mouth (I’m not fucking kidding) and there are Things In My Past.

So, after careful consideration, I won’t be applying. Sorry comrades.

But something is stirring in me. Perhaps I’m having a midlife crisis of sorts, now I’ve turned 40, at least a mild one in keeping with my too-mild personality.

I like where I work and I enjoy my job most of the time. But consider what my good wife does for a living since she’s become a Mummy: she deals with all sorts of emergency calls and, although she keeps the details to herself, I know she’s regularly helped people in distress, perhaps saved someone’s life.

TV, as ever, is partly to blame. Imagine what it’s like for a PR Tart to watch the marvellous crew at King’s perform daily miracles on 24 Hours in A&E? And don’t get me started on the heroics of the builders behind Nick Knowles on DIY SOS. Tear-jerking, life-saving magic that leaves me feeling like the Useless Man Who Sits At A Computer For A Living.

Whether I’m in the throes of a mid-life crisis or not, it’s completely indulgent of course. My Dad was bright as a button at school in rural Donegal but, despite his teacher’s tears, he had to give it up at 14 to go out and earn. He’s been out, in rain, sun, hail and snow, ever since and yet in all of the time I’ve known him he’s always been smiling and never ever moaned – he simply winks, grins and resorts to his stock line that the ‘first 20/30/40 years are the worst’.

He’s always provided for his family, having never been out of work in an often fragile industry, and he’s put his four kids through university – giving us opportunities he was denied by economic circumstance.

Grandaddyfool is a role model. I worry I’m not. I’m sometimes troubled by the – vain – thought of my kids one day deciding whether they’d rather their classmates met the woman who works for an emergency service or the man who keeps things out of newspapers.

Still, as I’m sure Grandaddyfool and countless other disgruntled citizens would agree, a second life in politics isn’t going to improve my role model status. It might even worsen it.

So, on I go. Searching, navel gazing, indulging. Until one day, hopefully soon, I properly realise that my job through middle age and beyond is to keep my head down and make sure my son and daughter have the best chance of a rewarding, fulfilling career of their own.


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