Grandma knows best. Or does she?

I had an interesting linguistic encounter with my local MP last Sunday. She knocked on our door. I introduced her to my daughter, who’s busy working for an imminent AS exam in Politics. (Never mind the politics, think of the revision potential.)

The MP said how important she felt it was for young people to vote.

To illustrate, she said to my daughter something along the lines of, ‘Imagine what your wardrobe would be like if your grandparents chose all your clothes. They probably wouldn’t suit you at all! Well, that’s what would happen if we left everything to the over-60s. We’d end up with policies that wouldn’t be right for young people.’

At the time, I thought it was a great analogy – it put it in terms my daughter could understand, and didn’t muddy the water with any partisan politics.

But when we talked about it afterwards, my daughter was quick to put the analogy to the test.

First, she said, are ‘grandparents’ really synonymous with ‘people who don’t understand anything about what’s hot and what’s not’?

Second, if we’re talking about clothes, it might well be that grandparents would choose things that were more practical and well-made – the sorts of things that you’d never pick for yourself, but deep down know are sensible choices.

And third, she asked, why is it a good thing just to vote for what suits us? Aren’t we supposed to vote the way we think would be best for as many of us as possible?

So, I applaud the attempt to make the argument in a way that was easy to understand. Metaphors are brilliant for helping us grasp complicated ideas and bringing mundane information to life.

But it was a big reminder to me that you have to make sure it’s the right metaphor – one that can stand up to a proper interrogation.

Only then should it get your vote.

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