Mum wants to buy a million-pound flat - that's not fair, right?

Alice O'Keefe's "Squeezed Middle" column.

‘‘Darling, I just had to tell you.” Mum sounds slightly breathless. “The Old Flat is for sale!” “Oh yeah?” For a moment I fail to register the symbolic importance of the words.
 
The Old Flat is where my family lived until I was 15. Funnily enough, it was slightly too small for two kids – oh, how history repeats itself – and eventually Mum sold it and moved around the corner. With its prime central location and its big windows looking out over the park, it is a lovely place, imbued with many cherished memories.
 
“What, are you thinking of buying it back?”
 
“I am considering it seriously, yes.”
 
I haven’t heard Mum sound this excited about anything for ages. She became a Buddhist a few years ago, and it’s really calmed her down. She meditates every morning, and once a week she goes to sweep the floor of the Buddhist centre. My mum is big on becoming a better person. I think that’s where I get it from – but she’s way further along the road than me. I feel tired just thinking about all the meditation and sweeping I would have to do to become as calm as her.
 
But right now she sounds stoked, like Larry does when he talks about opening his Christmas presents. “Well, that’s exciting!”
 
It’s only after I hang up that I realise it is not exciting. I hate the thought of it. For a start, the past is the past. We moved on. Trying to turn back the clock is never a good idea.
 
But there is another reason, too, one so shameful that I can barely acknowledge it to myself. I had always assumed that once Mum sold her current house – central London, four bedrooms, worth a fortune – she would move somewhere smaller and cheaper, freeing up some cash for us.
 
It’s not as if she hasn’t helped us out already. We could never have bought our slightlytoo- small flat without an unspeakably generous donation from her.
 
Nevertheless, our only real hope of ever being able to afford somewhere family-sized and not in Hull resides in the sale of her house. That or a Lottery win, which Curly confidently predicts will happen within months, if not weeks.
 
To buy back The Old Flat, Mum will need every penny of her money. Of course I want her to be happy. I want her to have everything she could possibly wish for. But . . .
 
I phone Curly at work to let off steam.
 
“Hello, Domino’s Pizza.”
 
“?”
 
“Only joking. Worthy Causes ‘R’ Us.”
 
“Curly, it’s me.”
 
“I know.”
 
“Mum wants to buy a million-pound flat.”
 
“Great. Good for her.”
 
“Don’t you think it’s a little bit unfair?”
 
“How do you mean?”
 
“Well, I mean what about us?”
 
Silence on the line.
 
“Curly, are you still there?”
 
“Yes.”
 
“What do you think?”
 
“What do you mean what do I think?”
 
“Don’t you think it’s unfair?”
 
“I think it’s her money and it’s her life. And anyway, I think we are doing fine.”
 
God damn Curly and the way he makes me feel like a selfish cow. It’s out of order. 
Alice O'Keeffe's "Squeezed Middle" column appears weekly in the New Statesman.

Alice O'Keeffe is an award-winning journalist and former arts editor of the New Statesman. She now works as a freelance writer and looks after two young children. You can find her on Twitter as @AliceOKeeffe.

This article first appeared in the 23 September 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Can Miliband speak for England?

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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