No, you didn’t misread that. Yes, I am the same person that is frequently rather ruder than perhaps I should be about our elected representatives. Yes, Messrs Balls and Milliband (E) and Osborne and Cable have aroused my ire all too frequently.
But the truth is, I quite like them. Even now, just a couple of days after a Budget, I quite like them. Not all of them, and not all of the time, but most of them, usually, when they’re not being George Galloway or Nadine Dorries or Nick Griffin.
When I look across the pond I see many things to admire, even in the field of politics, but there’s one trend I’d happily send back to the land of the free, and that’s the oft-commented-on polarisation of politics that seems to have taken place over recent years. I’m not entirely sure what’s behind it. I don’t know if it’s down to the personalities involved, with Bush Jr and (more surprisingly) Slick Billy being the names most reviled by the other side. But it can’t be down to personality alone, because if it were the GOP would never have recovered from Nixon. Perhaps it’s the Internet. In an age where all the information in the world is at your fingertips, it’s so much easier to make something up, superimpose it on a picture of someone inspirational, and watch it go viral. And when someone else is looking for the facts – well, Google doesn’t rank by truth and accuracy.
Whatever causes it, it’s starting to creep over here now. Maybe it’s an inevitable function of the straitened times we live in, maybe positions have genuinely become more entrenched, maybe the politicians themselves go on the attack more than they used to. But the result is a world where every idea the other side has is torn to shreds regardless of its validity or the possibility that it might, you know, suit everyone quite well. And it’s a shame, because much as I am certain that the tens of millions of people who voted Republican don’t actually hate women or minorities, I am also pretty sure that if you locked Osborne and Balls in a room together (without weapons), they’d find they had more in common than they suspected.
Politicians aren’t very popular at the moment, so most people reading this will probably laugh, but I believe most people go into politics because they want to do some good. I’m not going to pretend there’s not an element of hunger for power there, too, and it follows that the most ambitious and ruthless are the ones most likely to make it to the top. But I still believe that most of our elected politicians do, on the whole, want their electorate to be happy (and not just for the votes). They curse one another and we follow suit, parroting the partisan politics of the day. “Ideologically-driven” this, “union-bought” that, “u-turning” the other. And it’s a shame, really, because most Conservatives don’t want to see the rich fattening on the ground-up bones of the poor, and most Labour MPs don’t want the country to fall to famine and plague just so they can say “I told you so”, and most Liberal Democrats aren’t really on an eternal gap year of the mind. Over there in the States, similarly, most Republicans don’t want a gun shop next to the cafeteria in every high school and most Democrats aren’t planning on taking your car and handing it over to some immigrant. And their opponents know this.
The politicians don’t really believe these things of one another, they just say they do because it’s become the regrettable norm of political discourse. But we don’t have to take them seriously, any more than we take seriously the “literally”‘s and the “awesome”‘s of sportsmen and celebrities. It’s just their way of talking. If you strip away all the posing and nonsense, what they’re really saying is something more like: “I see your point but differ slightly in my view of the benefits your proposal would bring to the country”. Not “I hate you and everything you stand for.”
So next time you get drawn into a discussion which leaves you frothing at the mouth at the stupidity of someone who’d even consider voting for that politician, stop and think about that politician for a moment. Strip away everything the other side have said about her, everything the opposing press and media have said about her, ignore the occasional gaffe that everyone in the public eye is bound to make from time to time, the seemingly appalling policy statements taken out of context or made in haste and repented afterwards, and take a moment to look at her from a quieter, less fervent angle.
She’s not so bad after all, is she?
Liked this? Take a look at the opening chapter from the soon-to-be-published Without Due Care here.