Life & Culture

From one Jewish mum called Victoria to another… advice for our new First Lady

Victoria Prever’s children are the same age as Victoria Starmer’s – so she’s acutely aware of what’s facing the PM’s wife


One name, two Jewish mothers

Dear Victoria,

Congratulations on last week’s victory. I’m delighted for you but acutely aware that for you and your family, this election will be life-changing and present you with huge personal challenges.

You won’t know, but our husbands met the week before the election — mine (David) was interviewing yours on the campaign trail. David was impressed and told me how struck he was by the similarities between our lives.

Obviously, we share a first name but Victoria, you and I have more in common than that. We both were lucky enough to be educated at northwest London fee-paying schools — have you worn brown since?

Each of us qualified and worked as solicitors before changing careers. As well as having busy working lives, we’re both mothers of teenagers — sons aged 15 and daughters of 13 — all at state schools.

So, I have huge empathy with the delicate balancing act you’ll have in the next few years. My teens would be horrified if I upended them from our family home and plonked them in a tiny flat in Central London. Mine have both spent years curating posters (him) and vanity table (her). Perhaps a trip to Ikea to pick some bit for the new bedrooms will help ease that pain? And even if they don’t immediately communicate their irritation, make time to listen to them when they do — even if the moment they choose to share is 11.30pm on a weeknight.

I applaud you and Sir Keir on having kept them out of the spotlight so far. I hope you can continue to do so. It’s exactly what we would be doing. If your children are like mine, even being singled out for praise by a teacher in front of their classmates or (God forbid) of the entire year group, mortifies them.

And I only have to open my mouth in public for my offspring to visibly cringe and roll their eyes. I can only imagine the embarrassment of having a father who’s constantly in the glare of publicity. Don’t you miss the days when they thought we could do no wrong?

I would also be trying to maintain their daily schedules as much as you can. My son hates any change to his routine — even weeknight dinner guests that disrupt his gym schedule reduces him to sullen silence. Although perhaps learning to flex a little might be good for them too.

I wonder how you feel though, as a Jewish mother, putting your children into such a potentially public place? In recent months of rising antisemitism, I’ve felt keenly aware of keeping my two safe and sympathise with you. It must have been scary for them when the demonstrators were outside your home. Perhaps the increased security at Downing Street will be a comfort.

It’s also a tricky age to keep them connected with their Judaism. My children are on the other side of bar and bat mitzvah and now reluctant to join me at synagogue. I’ll keep on trying (and occasionally insisting) but imagine that my children’s religious connection going forward will be through food and festivals.

And that’s enough. If you and Sir Keir are able to keep Friday night traditions — a meal together around the table with candles, challah and wine — and to celebrate our festivals with fun and food they’ll have that connection. It’s how I grew up and it eventually brought me back to my Jewish roots and helped me create my Jewish home. You’ll find my time-saving tips for Shabbat dinners at number 10 here

And I do hope you’re able to take your rescue cat, Jojo, with you as I’ve heard she might struggle in your new home with current alpha feline, Larry. I’m sure she’ll be key to the children for some stability.

Your husband also disclosed that the children are using the move as leverage in a campaign for getting a dog? I’ve been fighting that battle for years. I highly recommend dog-sitting. Just a week or so with someone else’s dog, getting them to do the walks and other dog-related chores should stop that battle in its tracks, but if that’s not an option, Larry may be your get out of jail card — a dog as well as Jojo would be too much for the old moggie, I’m sure.

Best of luck, VS, in your new life — I’m here to help if you need any more time-saving tips.

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