So, I’m not what you’d call big on politics. I mean, I care, and get very pissed off about the whole business, but I’m not what you’d call a believer. I’m a wishy-washy liberal, which by definition means someone who is prepared to sit down and consider the other guy’s point of view. (This naturally makes liberalism a rather difficult doctrine to sell, since when asked to say something charismatic and powerful about your rival’s political stance the best you can usually come up with is ‘well, that’s a very interesting view, would you care to have a rational and reasonable discussion about its implications sometime and perhaps provide me with your evidence and references for the same?’ Unlike, say, a less liberal political doctrine in which you can absolutely say ‘no, you’re wrong and I’m right hah!’ and thus if nothing else achieve a certain punchiness in presentation.) I guess if I believe anything at all it is that wealth does not equal entitlement, that poverty does not equal failure, that nuclear missiles started off a bad idea and haven’t changed much, that continual setting of educational targets does not create learning, that the NHS is a Good Thing, that Britishness is not a fixed absolute that should be imposed upon society, (and even if it were, it is again not another Good Thing) and of course, that power does not equal aptitude. (Witness the MP’s expenses scandal, sigh.) And of course, like a good sometime-history student, I believe that all ideals are tempered by viability – thus the sacred protest chant – ‘What Do We Want?’ ‘Reasonably Agreeable and Mutually Beneficial Change For The Overall Good!’ ‘When Do We Want It?’ ‘Within a Practicable Timeframe, Please!’
All of which largely leaves me without a party to support in the coming general election. I mean, my instinct is to vote Green, simply because when all other issues are stripped down, the continual survival of the planet really kinda tops them all. But in the first past the post system, I do find myself playing an amateur’s strategic voting game. I live in a marginal constituency, and the Greens don’t even seem to be trying to win here. What good are my ethics if they have no political consequence? (I ask myself.) I won’t beat about the bush – I find the idea of a Conservative government rather horrifying, as it seems that they either have no ideas, or their ideas are founded on a doctrine of get power first, get a plan last. Douglas Adams had it right when he suggested that those who wanted power should absolutely be the very very last people to get it. That said, Labour’s main intention seems to be the retention of power, and again, past that there doesn’t seem to be a plan, although I can at least sympathize with some of their basic principals, even if the past however many years seems to have twisted and corrupted the core ethics to squat. As for the Lib Dems… I couldn’t even recognize Clegg until two weeks ago and I still don’t know what they stand for. They have some sympathy from me in that they haven’t done anything that seems absolutely inane these last few years – their MPs were reasonably not-too-corrupt-overall compared to some of the obscene corruptions that have emerged from 2009, and they were opposed to the Iraq War which was quite clearly another obscenity that shall go down in the history books as one of the most politically stupid and morally reprehensible acts of the British government in the last 50 years. Then again, they were a 3rd party in a parliament of two parties united on the war and thus had very little to lose by opposing the war, not least when 2 million protesters were marching through the streets of London on this very theme – quite what they’d do in government when idealism met practicality who knows? Perhaps it is just an innate truth that power always corrupts, that the brightest of idealists when they decide to become MPs will soon find themselves so lost in the combat of politics that ethics gives way to survivor’s instinct. Democracy, as Winston Churchill put it – the least bad form of government.
It is also possible that I am basing my decision on seriously iffy information. The newspapers are hardly squeaky clean in their election reports – some are so blatantly pro one party or another that there’s no point even pretending that journalistic neutrality exists. When did we reach a point where a newspaper could ‘declare’ itself for one party or another? And the BBC, my usual source of all knowledge, is in such a hurry to deliver information that often the depth can be hard to find. It makes a murky contest even murkier, not fully knowing what information to trust.
Some things I can soundly declare myself to be opposed to. The British National Party causes me nothing but fear and offense; fear because they seem to be getting better at putting a slick mask on what is an inherently offensive operation. Even if the BNP denies that it’s a racist party, their core doctrine seems still to be the imposition of one culture – a fantastical ‘British culture’ – on everybody. I don’t recognise this Britishness that the BNP seems to describe; to me, there is nothing more British than having a lamb bhuna while watching American TV in the company of friends from across the world, knowing that tomorrow morning I can get baklava from across the road run by the man who watches epic Hindu drama on a tiny TV screen above the cigarette counter, before getting on a bus in which the common language of conversation is Arabic, Farsi, Russian, Polish, French, German, Cantonese and as well as English. What is London if not a city of everyone and everything; and is this not something that makes it great? To impose a culture on anyone or anything automatically implies the absolute superiority of any culture, and that I cannot accept. And yet to watch the BNP at work… it reminds me of student union debates, in which everyone had to come armed with a battery of statistics and examples and figures plucked from who knew where to prove god knew what, sounding incredibly impressive until you noticed the lack of footnotes.
It would be politically correct of me to say that I respect people who hold other political views from mine. And certainly, some I can; that which is supported by argument, by reason, that view which can hear the views of others, recognize the broader picture, base its views on evidence and understanding; that political view which has at its heart the needs of others, regardless of race, creed or colour, sure I can respect that – our political aims are the same, even if our methods for achieving all of the above are different. But I see no sure sign that the BNP fulfils even this ambition, let alone holds methods I can respect. So I guess that even if I can’t guarantee which party I’ll be voting for in the coming election, I can at least tick a few off the list.