Let us consider politics some more, because there are things which happen in the political field which don’t, as a rule, happen anywhere else.
First, our leaders are subjected to intense scrutiny. In one sense this is entirely right and necessary – they should be held to account and required to explain their actions. However this scrutiny is more often misapplied; as in, just to take one example, the recent Virgin trains episode where Corbyn did probably do something a tad misleading which was then blown up out of all proportion. And, just to show I’m not using bias here, I think the ‘pig’ episode from Cameron’s history was also blown out of proportion and somewhat distasteful.
But in politics you only have to put a foot wrong for people to be baying for your blood. In a recent interview Corbyn was asked if he wanted to be prime minister. He answered the question in a roundabout way, saying that he intended to win a general election and that if he was, as he hoped, leader of the party at that point, then he would be PM. But Jon Snow (of whom I expect better) kept asking the question: ‘do you want to be Prime Minister?’ Why did he do that? Because he was trying to get Jeremy to say yes, I want to be Prime Minister – because that would then be the thing that was reported. Then they could undermine him and imply that he is driven by ambition just like all the rest. Shock horror! Headline news! Corbyn as ambitious as all other politicians! Fortunately Jeremy is far too canny to fall for this – but it really enrages me that it happens in the first place. It turns what ought to be a probing interview into a sort of game or dance where they try to get you to say something that fits in with their agenda and you try to avoid it whilst getting your message across. It makes you want to echo Gandhi who, when asked what he thought of Western democracy, replied ‘it would be a good idea.’
Where else does this kind of thing happen? In which other area of work are you routinely subjected to questions which try to catch you out? Where else are employees scrutinised for any defects of character or their words analysed over and over for inconsistencies? It beats me how anyone can put up with it. Not to mention the insults and vitriol which are hurled at anyone with the temerity to get involved in politics in the first place.
It seems that there’s an almost complete lack of respectful debate nowadays. I asked someone on Facebook who had dissed Corbyn, why it was that she didn’t like him and she answered that her gut feeling told her not to trust him. She added that she could always be wrong. I ‘liked’ her comment and at that point I didn’t take it any further. Why? Because I was thankful for her honest opinion and interested in finding out where she was at. That is respectful debate. Because it’s no good labelling your opponents as self-interested, ignorant fascists. Some of them may be but there are many decent, respectable people out there who actually (shock, horror) vote Tory for reasons which seem good to them. I disagree profoundly with them, but what use is democracy if we can’t even talk to each other? Or more importantly, listen?
It was something of a culture shock when, a few years ago, I met some Tories campaigning in Leicester West. I deviated from my lifelong pattern of Labour voting for various reasons; partly because I disliked Labour under Blair, but mainly because of the issue of Home Education, and only the Conservatives were sticking up for people’s right to Home Educate. Now, Mark being Mark (or whoever he is) couldn’t just leave it at that: he actually had to go out and canvass with these people. I declined to take any such step, but I was invited to a ‘thank-you’ party after the election where I met the candidate and some of her supporters. And here’s the thing: they were in fact really nice people. Sure, she lived in a huge house with extensive grounds in the wilds of Leicestershire, but there was no snobbery in their interactions with us and at the time Mark was – as he used to be in those days – quite shabbily dressed. So they could have been quite snotty with us, and they weren’t. OH has also met Edwina Currie and pronounced her also to be very pleasant to talk to; and I recently met Liz Kendall, whose politics I despise, and found her equally pleasant in person.
None of this changes my views: but it changes my interactions with those who don’t share them. Needless to say it did not take long for me to regret my voting in that election and I have been all the keener on supporting first Left Unity and then Labour since Corbyn.
We live in interesting times, eh?