The most common questions I am asked is how do you do this job with young children? How do you cope? When do you see them? And the killer that, of course, always feels like a jab to the stomach: how are the children surviving without you?
With a smile on my face I inform the person asking that “it’s hard but we are managing to work it out.”. The truth of course is far more complicated. The reality is that this job isn’t geared up for people like me in any way shape or form.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’ve always worked. I was a primary school teacher when I had my son in 2011 and I was running a local teaching business when my daughter entered the world in 2016. I am used to working long hours in stressful work and my children have always had to fit alongside my job. Not for selfish reasons particularly – although I like to work – but for practical ones. There isn’t a pot of cash for me to bring them up on, I’ve had to put food in their bellies and clothes on their backs, and the drive of coming from a background where money was scarce giving me that fire (fuelled mostly by fear) that I would do everything in my power to ensure that they never feel the same financial insecurity that I felt growing up.
So why when things were full on before did I decide to jump into the deep end further and run as the Labour candidate in 2017 for Crewe and Nantwich?
At the start of the year, after spearheading the local campaign against the diabolical cuts to school funding in Cheshire East, I decided enough was enough. If my kids are going to grow up in a socially responsible country with opportunities to live the lives that they deserve, central government must change and start being representative of the society that we live in. We must recognise that women are still very much second class citizens, and we must start addressing the culture that has spawned this.
I’m new to politics. I’ve never been in local government; I was an activist, a member of the union and came from a long-standing Labour Party family. I haven’t come from a background of jargon and empty words, and I know what it’s like when life throws you a curve ball that takes the wind from your sails and the plans that you had made lay shattered in a million pieces. I can say with integrity that I will try my best to fight against the injustice that members in my constituency feel, and I’ll do it with vigour and sincerity.
Entering Westminster has been an eye opener without a doubt. Never have I been more sure that the ambitions of many there come from a place of self-indulging hypocrisy, and the decisions that they make are sheer games rather than coming from a place of care.
I don’t know the parliamentary protocol nor do I care much for it, I speak with a northern accent, I came to the door with an overdraft, no savings and a limited wardrobe purchased on a credit card to try and look smart.
I am what I am and that is representative of millions of women in Britain. My class has been with me my whole life, forged from the experiences of my Scottish mining grandfather, and I’ve ridden on the rollercoaster of the ups and downs of life. I’m proud to be working class, I’m proud of my people and for as long as my constituency wish to keep me in Westminster I will fight for the working people of this country.
So my real answer to the questions I raised at the start of this article is in fact this. It is incredibly hard spending part of my week away from my children. I feel all kinds of personal guilt at the prospect of doing it. But do you know what – as women have done so before me, we must lead the way in changing the politics for the future generations, and we must make Westminster more representative of the many and not the few. I am safe in the knowledge that one day my kids will understand why I did it, and fingers crossed be proud of their mum.
Laura Smith is MP for Crewe and Nantwich.