Oh, what a tangled web we mix
when first we practise – politics.
Can’t live with it, can’t ignore it, what a nasty business politics is, like a swamp which clings to anyone who ventures close to its borders. And yet staying out is not an option because, as Sartre so famously said, ‘You may not concern yourself with politics, but politics concerns itself with you.’ That’s what I said to our son when he was declaring his intention not to vote. ‘You may choose not to vote,’ I said. ‘But they’ll be making laws that affect your life, and if you don’t vote you have no voice.’ Not to mention that as a woman I am always conscious of the struggles other women went through to obtain the vote.
Of course I understand why some people have given up hope that voting will change things. I understand why some people think that all politicians are alike and out to feather their own nests. I also understand that one tick in one box once every five years is a totally inadequate way to express all that we think. Which is why I get involved. I don’t want to, but I can’t help myself. I hate half of the debates that go on; I hate the vitriol and the name-calling; I hate the factionalism and the mud-slinging. And I don’t know if I can do anything about it; but I feel compelled to try.
It seems to me that those on the left are much more likely to sling the mud in public. Those on the right are natural authoritarians; used to taking charge, brought up to lead and to think of themselves as leaders. They are much better at falling into line publicly and having arguments in private. And whilst I respect the tendency of those on the left not to accept authority, I can’t help wishing they’d fall into line a little more – at least in public. The Labour Party has always hung out its tattered washing in public; the rows between the left and right of the party have ground on for generations and we seem incapable of either respecting or listening to each other, let alone pulling together. I struggle to respect a figure like Owen Smith; I disagree profoundly with what he’s done, but to publicly slag him off is not productive. And to do him justice, Jeremy is saying the same: though people slag him off everywhere he fails to reciprocate.
But here’s the thing with people who try to be honest, especially in politics. You put one foot wrong and everyone’s baying for your blood. ‘Look at Jeremy!’ they howl. ‘He said he couldn’t find a seat on a train and here’s a video showing that he could!’
I think the jury’s out on this one: sure, the video does appear to show him walking past empty seats but other passengers have posted pictures of themselves sitting in the corridor, one or two with Jeremy. These people have said that the train was in fact packed and that they, along with Jeremy, couldn’t initially find a seat but later did. Of course, these people could always be stooges – or else Corbyn fans trying to help him out. Then again, Virgin have a great deal to gain from suggesting that he lied, since his plan is to renationalise the railways. I suspect in the end that most people will believe who they want to believe: those who don’t like Jeremy will be glad he’s been shown up as a hypocrite, and those who support him will believe Virgin manipulated the evidence. For myself I’m not sure what happened: if he lied I’m disappointed in him, though it hardly weighs against the mountain of corruption which he is opposing. Nevertheless if he did lie he shouldn’t have, because it weakens him.
Then again, perhaps all we have to do is to ask this question: