Me and My Vote: Claire Rayner and Virginia Ironside

Claire Rayner and Virginia Ironside, the UK's leading agony aunts, worry about who to vote for at the general election.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

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Claire Rayner: ‘I’ve always voted Labour – but for the first time I’m wobbling like fury’

‘There’s no force this side of Armageddon that would make me vote Tory. But the trouble is, I can’t be sure that voting for New Labour isn’t the same as voting Tory.’

Claire Rayner, agony aunt to the nation, has supported Labour since ‘before I was old enough’ – but this time she’s floundering.

‘For the first time since I can remember I’m wobbling like fury. I’m so angry about the current government, but what’s the alternative? The Liberal Democrats are probably more left-wing than New Labour, so that’s a distinct possibility. But I don’t want to commit myself at this stage.

‘I’ve always voted Labour. Even before I was old enough to vote I used to turn up and muck in and deliver stuff, and didn’t tell anyone how old I was because you weren’t supposed to help out if you were a kid. I’ve always been a leftie, well reasonably leftie – okay, a champage socialist, but what’s wrong with that? If you work hard and earn it you might as well be comfortable.

‘But I’m a very unhappy bunny I can tell you. The government’s current anti-immigrant stance and all this about so-called bogus asylum seekers makes me furious. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a bogus asylum seeker. Whether you’re an economic migrant or an asylum seeker you should be free to go anywhere around the world you want to go. The way they’re treated makes me so angry I could spit – and this is bloody government policy.

‘I’m furious about the way they treat the elderly. I’m pissed off to the back of my teeth about what’s happening to students who are dropping out of university because they can’t afford to stay there. I’m so angry that we were promised a Freedom of Information Act and didn’t get it. As for the railways, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

‘I couldn’t bring myself not to vote – but I really am floundering about what to do with my vote.’

Virgina Ironside: ‘Tony Blair is missing a chromosome somewhere’

‘There is a fiendish quality to Blair isn’t there? He’s a sort of mixture, as most fiendish people are, of extraordinary weakness and just being so out of touch with everything.’

Virginia Ironside, an agony aunt for over 25 years, is used to ‘reading people’ – and she doesn’t like what she sees in today’s crop of politicians.

‘I don’t like the policies of any party, and I don’t like the personalities of any party. There’s nobody of any gravitas; there is just a lack of experienced, moral, I mean properly moral, or trustworthy politicians. They’re all a bunch of chancers. And Blair is just peculiar – he’s a bit from Mars. He’s missing a chromosome somewhere.

‘I don’t like this preoccupation with telling us whether we should smoke or not, that we should all have counselling when we get divorced, whether we should hunt or not. You think to yourself, oh please do leave us alone.

‘I would like to vote for the Boring Party – which would simply address education, health and the police, and not get sidetracked down funny little roads. I’d vote for a party that promised to pay nurses twice as much, teachers twice as much, would put squillions of policemen on the beat, and improve the prison service. That’s not too much to ask, surely.

‘Labour spends so much time telling us what to do in our lives that they lose sight of the important issues. You feel like saying to them what one’s teachers used to say when one was confused about the answer to a question: “Read the question!” Don’t get me started – I’ll end up sounding like “Furious of Birmingham”.

‘Anyway, I think I’ll be away during the election, and I don’t know if I’ll bother with a proxy vote. I might throw in a vote for the Liberal Democrats, or whatever they’re called these days, just to sort of encourage them.

‘But no, I’m not fired up about the election. Can you tell?’

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