Things You Only Know If Your Dad’s An MP

With the election behind us and MPs back in Parliament to represent us for another term, Rachel Argyle explains what it’s like to have a normal Dad, with an abnormal job.

Things You Only Know If Your Dad’s An MP

by Rachel Argyle |
Published on

On Monday, I dropped my Dad off at the train station for his first day back at work. Neatly pressed shirt and suitcase in hand, he caught the 8.55am to London. This return to work is a bit different from the norm though… For one thing, he has to reapply for it every five years, his ‘interview’ is at the hands of nearly 50,000 registered voters on Ynys Mon (North Wales) and lasts five weeks, and the final decision between candidates is voted on for 15 hours. And when the decision is announced in the early hours of the morning after hours nervously pacing a room? It’s broadcast live on TV.

My old man is a Labour MP and last Thursday he was re-elected for the fourth time. His majority is one of the slimmest in the UK with just 229 votes in it. He won the seat against the odds in 2001 when I was 16 years old and has kept hold of it ever since. Here’s what I’ve learnt growing up as the daughter of an MP.

When you’re the daughter of a politician, an election is an emotional rollercoaster. Politics divides opinion, but when your Dad’s job is on the line and you know he works his arse off, your mild annoyance at that friend who’s threatening to vote UKIP becomes full-on fury. That guy who lives near you and tells all his Facebook mates to vote for the opposition but says it’s ‘nothing personal’? Well he can just do one. Once you calm down again, you remember that politics is personal and everyone has a right to their democratic choice, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow when it’s about your family.

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And growing up with your father as the local MP has its own challenges, especially when you live on a small island and everyone knows everyone’s business. Most Dad’s give their children those lectures about not getting into trouble. But the consequences of making a wrong choice can be much bigger when your Dad’s a politician. Drugs, the ‘wrong’ choice of boyfriend, getting into scraps, puking up tequila on the pavement … these are all, typically, no no’s. It’s also best not to be too vocally opinionated (one I struggle with). Remember when Tony Blair's son decided to celebrate his GCSE success and ended up getting arrested for being drunk and incapable? This was in the news headlines the week I finished my exams. Our planned party in the park was downscaled and my GCSE celebrations STRICTLY became a soft drink-only affair (at least for me, anyway).

When your Dad’s job is on the line and you know he works his arse off, your mild annoyance at that friend who’s threatening to vote UKIP becomes full-on fury

Getting turned away from your local nightclub just before your 18th birthday because the staff know who your dad is sucks and so does getting a taxi from your parents place and listening to them bang on about their views on the economy or the potholes in their street, in the hope that it gets back to their MP. When your photo has been plastered over leaflets and stuffed through letterboxes in every house on the island, it’s also pretty hard to remain inconspicuous when you’ve had a few too many drinks and think you’re Adele on karaoke.

As a 16 year old, my Dad passed my school at breaktime playing ‘Is this the way to Amarillo’ on the Labour Battle Bus and decided it would be a good idea to say hello to me on the speakers. The ground refused to swallow me up and you quickly realise there’s not much point in the usual teenage angst reaction. I might never forgive him for the photo he decided to use in his first election leaflet (where I was wearing socks with open toe sandals), but hearing his stories of the time he met Obama or seeing his energy at representing his home constituency makes up for it.

This week, I realised that there was a role reversal in our relationship. Here I was dropping him off to work and fizzing with pride. There was once a time when he’d drop me off at the primary school gate for my first day back after the summer holidays. It is a reminder that politics is everyday life and politicians are just regular people.

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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