This piece was written by Symon Vegro.
Groucho Marx had it about right when he said that “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies”.
Politics. Love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it. And politicians are similarly hard to ignore, even when we feel indifferent or angry or exasperated with them, or all three. So many of them seem out of touch, and don’t seem to represent the people who voted them in, or fight for their interests once elected, or basically appear to have any clue at all about how the people who elected them live.
So how refreshing it is to find a politician who lives in the real world, who is in politics because she genuinely wants to make the world (at least that part of it she can influence) a better place, and who sees politics not as an end in itself but as a tool to achieve just that. Meet Kay Tart, Labour’s recently selected Candidate for Hitchin and Harpenden.
For starters, Kay lives in the constituency. This means that she clearly has an understanding of the issues that local voters have, from the dire state of public transport (as anyone who commutes by train to London, or lives in one of the villages without a decent bus service, will know all about) to the chronic underfunding of our schools and public services. Kay, as a mother of five, is very much at the front line, and is determined to make a difference.
“Sometimes I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, but it’s this that drives me to change things for the better.”
Somehow I can’t imagine Boris Johnson saying that. Her admission that what keeps her awake at night is worrying whether her children’s lives will be harder than hers is a driving force, and one which she admits gives rise to a tendency to “over volunteer”.
Kay is already a Councillor for the Hitchin Walsworth Ward, and chairs the Joint Staff Consultative Committee, and plays a full role in helping the residents of Hitchin. I wondered how she finds the time, with a husband and five children too.
When I asked her she replied “I’m always the person in a group who says yes, I can do that”, followed closely by “I like to find solutions to problems and I like to get things done” leaving me in no doubt that here’s a woman on a mission!
“The only reason I’m able to juggle all of the things that I do is because of my family, who are incredibly supportive, and because I realised, when I starting contributing in my community and got involved in politics that things which I thought were important or a worthwhile use of my time, in fact, weren’t – and I found myself swapping less important things for things that are rewarding in other ways. I didn’t even notice those things changing, and I have found I value and make far better use of my free time and my time with my family as a result. My mum lives with us and we find multi-generational living brings so many benefits – not least emergency childcare when you sprain your ankle!”
What really struck me speaking to her, was not just her seemingly limitless energy but her incredible empathy. Whether it’s for the planet: “My most serious fear is climate breakdown and its implications”, the country: “It’s so disappointing to watch the country go backwards”, or for people: “If you want to know what a person is like, take a good look at how they treat their subordinates not their equals.” I can’t quite imagine Boris saying that either, or for that matter coming out too well if people took a good look at some of his behaviours.
When she’s not on the campaign trail, amongst numerous other activities she’s teaching her children to play a piano that she describes as her most treasured possession. “It belonged to my Grandmother, survived two World Wars in London, and is over 100 years old”. She’s an avid reader too, from Orwell’s classic ‘Animal Farm’, which she describes as a major influence and “all too relevant today”, to Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’: “a truly terrifying look at a post apocalyptic world”, and “the last book to make me cry”. She loves the Harry Potter books too: “I can happily vanish into the world of Hogwarts”.
Kay hasn’t got time to happily vanish anywhere for the next few weeks though, as she’s totally up for the Election fight and furthermore is convinced that she can win. Knowing that although the Constituency isn’t considered a tight marginal seat, nonetheless Labour is the only Party that could beat the Conservatives … and who knows, given the Government’s unpopularity, the volatility of the electorate, and Brexit.
She only smiles when I ask her what would happen if she does win. It’s the smile of someone who deserves to be a Member of Parliament, and who wouldn’t let her constituents down as so many of her predecessors have. Her love of gardening in the vegetable plot with the children on a spring day might have to take a little bit of a back seat, but we’d all be the better off for it.