New note to self: stop automatically assuming anything that a Tory does is DIM (mean, ignorant and duplicitous)

My lovely flatmate, Jimmy, and I were talking the other day. We met while studying politics and have lived together for about a year now, with frequent visits from other course mates, a subscription to the Economist and regular (and possibly unhealthy) West Wing marathons. He works in private banking and is a staunch Conservative. I work in research and am a former-liberal-now-confused. It’s fair to say we have a few political chats.

I am worried. This particular conversation ended on a particularly voracious note. I fear that I have turned into a caricature of myself, and have actually lost the ability to have a reasoned discussion about politics. I’m not sure exactly what has made me this way, but my knee-jerk reaction to hate on anything Cameron or his coalition does, says or smirks about, regardless if it’s something I’ve been moaning about myself in the pub the night before, has turned a bit dark. And substantially more knee-jerkier.

I’ve always called myself a liberal, before I really even knew what that meant. As I’ve got older, I’ve fulfilled the standard narrative arc, getting a bit more right wing on some things, retaining my leftie views on many others, and generally assuming some kind of nonchalant mid-stance (leaving me currently feeling like, if the election was tomorrow and would swing on MY VOTE ALONE, I wouldn’t really know who to to vote for*).

Clearly, I haven’t always been so angry, muttering curses at PMQs like a crazed voodoo priest. I wrote a policy paper on Sure Start for my Masters, during which time I found out a lot of things: most importantly, that when it comes to Sure Start, I think the Tories pretty much had it right all along. I strongly concur that prevention is better then cure, especially when it comes to kids and youth policy. I also concur that benefits got out of control under Labour and that ridiculous levels of target-driven bureaucracy sucked almost all the life out of the education system (all this, not to mention Iraq).

I like a lot of Conservatives. I like Louise Mensch, face lift or not. I think she is a fantastic role model for young women. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Boris and his blundering adventures (although would love it if Siobhan Benita got in this time around). I like Baroness Warsi (although I felt her comments about Christianity a month or so ago were strategic rather then heartfelt). I have a lot of time for SamCam (the colour blocking! The shoes!) and while Lansley and Osbourne are always going to be baddies to me, I feel that Nick Clegg might be on the rise, and do some good stuff in the next few years.

Yet lately, I can’t watch the news without developing extremely context – specific Tourettes. I’m angry, I’m frustrated, and I see the cuts affecting my family, some of my friends, and my community, both in London and back home. Somehow over the last few months, my ability to reason and think my way through an issue has left me. My new paradigm looks something like: Tory = rich = grossly materialistic = policy bleeding the country dry. And this is silly, unproductive, and, I imagine, profoundly annoying to all my friends.

So my newest note to self: stop assuming that every Conservative policy is DIM (duplicitous, ignorant and mean). Running a country is hard. David and all his little busy coalition bees are clever people who have worked, studied, grafted, networked and schmoozed hard to be where they are. They inherited a mess and I’m sure amongst all the politics, the spats, the business deals and all the sheer ridiculous messy humanity that goes on when a group of people get together and try to sort things out, there is lots of well meaning and necessary stuff going on.

So from now on I pledge to try and see both sides, to reason my way through, and to get fully educated about issues and stances before I start shooting my mouth off at the TV. It will make me a better person, a more useful one and maybe a bit less cross. I also hope it will make me a person who, in some way, can do something about all the things I care about, in my career and in my free time. I think this is really important, maybe the most important decision I’ve made this year. It should also make me much less annoying. (Good news, Jimmy.)

*I know that elections don’t work like this.

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