So at midnight parliament will be dissolved and Her Majesty, The Queen will officially be in charge.
Now, judging by the fine mess the current lot have got us into, if I were Liz, I’d take this opportunity to make some improvements. Who would stop her? (Seriously, I know a Google search would probably answer this question for me, but if she did go a bit power crazy, WHO would stop her?) I doubt we’d have a civil war on our hands, I don’t think the Welsh would be too arsed about us jumping on the free prescription band wagon. So, just for fun, if I were Queen of Great Britain for these few weeks before a new government is elected, this is what I would do:
1. Increase statutory maternity pay and give all parents eighteen months paid leave. I’m coming to the end of my time off with Little Panda and it’s making my heart hurt. I don’t want to go back to work and leave him to fend for himself (not strictly true, Nanny Goose is looking after him and is more than capable but my inner she-wolf is stressing about how the Cubs will cope without me). Notice how I wrote ‘parents’ and not ‘mothers’. Staying at home with the kids, watching cbeebies, making small talk with the school mums and attending messy play sessions is not for everyone. Personally I love it and would quite happily have another year off with Little Panda but there are times when I can feel my brain melting and running out of my ears as I hum the theme tune to ‘Something Special’ round Asda. There are, however, lots of dads who would love the opportunity to spend time with the kids doing just that. Just think how much happier the workforce would be. Instead of being forced to rush back to work after a few weeks, or scrimping and saving to enjoy a few months off, we should be able to really get to grips with being a parent because it’s bloody hard! When I returned to work after having Little Monkey he was five months old. He could barely sit up, he was still on milk and cried every time I left him. Those few months until the summer holidays were agony for me and yes, for those few months I was the world’s worst teacher. I grew to really resent having other people’s kids sat in front of me while mine was at mum’s house, missing me. If I’d been able to have longer with him and chosen to return to work when he was older I would have been much more comfortable and happy and productive at work. I’m sure I’m not alone here either. Yes, I know that legally everyone is entitled to a year off but we don’t get paid for that time and, quite frankly, maternity pay is rubbish.
2. Cut VAT on tampons and sanitary towels. Wait, what? We pay VAT on tampons and sanitary towels? Yes, ladies, yes we do. (I have said previously that I’m all for equality and have no desires to burn my bra in protest of anything but seriously, only a man could have dreamed this one up) Apparently (now hold onto your bras, girls) they’re ‘non essential luxury items’. This puts them in the same category as chocolate (debatable) and make up (also debatable). Now Mr Cameron would argue (and actually did so when questioned by a female student at the University of East Anglia) that the VAT was cut from 17.5% to 5%. Slow hand clap for whoever decided to grace us with that little lenience. Can we just clear something up here? We don’t CHOOSE to have periods. We don’t decide one day to wake up and leak blood, or have raging PMT or crave our own body weight in chocolate. It’s not a choice, it’s nature; which, by the way, resulted in the sorry existence of whoever decided sanitary products were luxury items. Without a menstruating woman, man does not exist. True fact. Just as a comparison, things that are now exempt from VAT are edible sugar flowers and alcoholic jellies.
3. Bring back half day closing on a Wednesday. Now I know that there are some places where this still happens (my local town being one of them, seriously it’s like the land that time forgot) and I know you’re reading this thinking I’m a bit barmy. Picture the scene: it’s Monday, everyone hates Monday but it’s a necessary evil and must be overcome and after a weekend of trying to fit in swimming lessons, the big shop, a family meal, a walk in the park, housework, birthday parties, football, rugby, seeing the grandparents and doing homework; Monday is possibly the least productive day of the week. Now imagine we had a little oasis in the middle of the week; Wednesday afternoon, in which to fit in a birthday party or lunch with the grandparents or DVDs and housework. The weekends would be less stressful and jam-packed and therefore make Monday less of a ‘get me coffee NOW’ day and more of a ‘lets do some work and accomplish something’ day. We’d feel refreshed and motivated. When I say ‘half day closing’ I do mean EVERYWHERE. Yes, even Tesco. No shopping, no pubs, no restaurants, no salons, no cafes, no hairdressers, no petrol stations, no banks, nowhere. Everyone would be forced to get outside and do something, spend time together, go for a walk or go to the park. How liberating. Hell, why don’t we just turn the wifi off as well. (Just kidding, I’d never take it that far.)
4. Get rid of food banks. No, I don’t mean just close them all, I mean make them redundant. Get rid of the need for them. I’ve mentioned before my massive girl crush on Jack Monroe and if anyone knows about food banks, it’s that girl. In the first half of the 2014-2015 financial year the number of people using food banks was increased by 38% compared to the same period the year before. That’s 492,641 people who needed to go and ask for food. Most of these are working people. People who have jobs and work for a living (or work for a pittance below the cost of living, more accurately) and included in that figure were 176,565 children. That’s disgusting and it makes me not want to be a part of a country that allows people to live like that. I can live with paying 5% VAT on tampons if it meant that the money went to paying people real wages to feed themselves and their families. The husband and I quite often watch Question Time and enjoy a healthy debate over it. One fact I was stunned to hear is that the government does not and will not keep records of the number of food bank applications. The data available is provided by the Trussel Trust. I would like to think that it’s because so much of the budget is assigned to eradicating food poverty that there is no cash spare to pay someone to count the number of people needing food, but I suspect it’s more like ‘if I can’t see it, it’s not happening’. If I was in charge I’d make Jack Monroe a member of parliament and give her a position in eradicating food poverty. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be starving and not be able to feed my own child but she experienced it first hand and as far as I am concerned, the best person to advise on how to solve the problem.
5.Make it much more difficult to become an MP. If you apply for a job a little phrase which immediately discounts some people is ‘experience necessary’. My sister in law has found this to be frustratingly true over the last few months when trying to find a job. She interviews fabulously, she’s intelligent and capable but is lacking in ‘experience’. Sorry, we seem to have our priorities mixed here. Someone who wants an admin job needs a couple of years’ experience in answering phones, typing letters and filing paperwork but someone who wants to change the way we educate our children doesn’t need any specific experience in doing so? No, come on, let’s be fair (and I apologise to all my fellow teachers for bringing his name up, I know we had a party when he was ‘reassigned’ and have filed his name away under ‘F’ for ‘
fuckwit‘ ‘Fool’ but it’s time to bring him up again.) Mr Gove’s views and policies on education were based on experience; after all, he did go to school once. In my humble opinion, if you want to have a say on how our children should be educated, spend a few years doing the job. If you want to cut benefits, spend a year living on them. If you decide that the NHS is your field of interest, go and work in all corners of that institution from birth to death and everywhere in between and then decide which bits don’t need funding anymore. Being an MP and running our country shouldn’t depend on who can give the best speech and who is the most popular, it should be who has done the job and knows what they’re talking about.
Now I don’t usually encourage audience participation but actually I really would like to know what YOU would do if you were given the opportunity to run the country; feel free to add your thoughts to the comments.