Jayne Dowle: Regret reveals politician’s human side

NIGEL Farage has broken the mould in more ways than one. In a recent television interview, he admitted his regret at not spending more time with his children.

Nigel Farage.

The Ukip leader told viewers that being a politician has impacted on his relationship with his two young girls, Victoria and Isabelle, and conceded: “I guess my daughters have seen less of me than they probably should have done.”

Until now, he’s hardly been known as a poster boy for working mothers. It would be tempting then to conclude that he only said it to boost his appeal with female voters. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt though, shall we? Personally, I think he was speaking from the heart.

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If we’re up for a bit of self-reflection, shall we all have a think about our greatest regrets of the year? I’ll start us off. It’s not as heart-rending as Farage’s, but it has caused me an inordinate amount of stress.

I heartily regret signing up for a two year mobile phone contract with a new BlackBerry when my old one died in March. I’ll not bore you with the details, but suffice to say it was a mistake. It’s been well-publicised that BlackBerry has lost out to Apple in the battle to stay at the forefront of mobile technology. Why didn’t I listen then, when friends told me to take the plunge and swap it for an iPhone? Well, my stubbornness has paid me back. It has been nothing but trouble. It crashed completely the weekend before Christmas. How come we can change energy suppliers, car and home insurance, even bank accounts in a matter of days, but find ourselves saddled with problematic mobile phones for years?

If we’re talking consumer rip-offs, I also regret not buying tickets for the American rock band Pearl Jam as soon as they went on sale. I’m still beating myself up about not getting up at 5am poised over the keyboard to press “order”. Just hours after the tickets were released to the general public, the price had doubled if not tripled to more than £200 a pair. I can’t justify that kind of cost for one night out. And I don’t think ticketing websites should be allowed to get away with it.

I’ll tell you what I really, really regret though. Not paying for a weekend away in London and going to the Tower of London to see the poppies to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. At first, I assumed it was an opportunistic PR stunt. It wasn’t until I saw the sheer scale of the display that I realised just how magnificent it looked.

Still, at least I don’t have to have my regrets thrown back in my face at every opportunity. Neither Nick Clegg or Ed Miliband exactly covered themselves in glory with the wreaths they laid at the Cenotaph. Their blunt messages, “From the Deputy Prime Minister”, and “From the Leader of the Opposition”, scrawled in black felt pen were hardly fitting to the occasion and overshadowed by the dignified inscriptions from David Cameron and the Prince of Wales.

Poor Ed Miliband. I bet his list of regrets is longer than his list to Santa. There was that bacon sandwich moment. And the misjudged price of a weekly shop. It seems that for him, 2014 has been a year of regrets. There must have been days when he regretted opening the front door.

At least I can keep my regrets to myself, unless I choose to share them with you, of course. And here’s where Mr Farage and myself find some common ground. Until he made his heartfelt admission about his daughters, I never thought I would find myself agreeing with him over parenting. Yet his comments have brought my own musings into sharp perspective.

This year I have watched both my children, Jack aged 12, and Lizzie, who is nine, mature and grow into young people with hearts and minds of their own. As I look at them, growing increasingly independent every day, achieving well in unexpected subjects at school, making new friends and finding new interests, I can’t help but think they are growing away from me. As I watch, I regret not spending more time with them when they were small. It is too late now to turn back the clock, to rethink my entire work/life balance and decide what was more important. It’s not too late though, to admit it.