Sunday, 8 October 2017

On finding one's 'political home'

I listen to LBC Radio a lot, mainly to the shows of James O’Brien, Maajid Nawaz and Iain Dale. One thing I’ve noticed that crops up in a lot of calls lately is the idea of people searching for a political home. Many callers are essentially socially or economically conservative but are not comfortable with the Tories’ approach to Brexit, or feel that austerity has ‘gone too far’. Others may be of a centre left political stance but might not feel very enamoured of Jeremy Corbyn or the more ‘hard left’ elements which seem now to have become the mainstream of the Labour party. Then there are the hard core Brexiteers who are angry at the perceived dithering of the government over the issue of the UK leaving the European Union. And, equally, the unrepentant Remainers who don’t feel that the Labour party, as the official opposition, are doing enough to fight for the pro-EU position. These people often say that they feel they have no political home. But, sometimes, a caller will announce, like an enthusiastic religious convert, that he or she has, at last, found his/her political home, perhaps in the Liberal Democrat party or, more often, as a member or supporter of UKIP.
This idea of needing to find one’s political home seems rather pointless and, to be honest, somewhat self-indulgent to me. Political parties exist essentially for the purpose of gaining power in order to enact the policies that they promote. I don’t see the point in joining a political party in order to be amongst people who have views that are as near as possible to one’s own, if there is no real prospect of getting a chance to put those views into practice. For some people, it even seems as if their party affiliation is worn as a kind of intellectual fashion accessory, in order to let people know at a glance - particularly on social media - what type of views they hold and what viewpoints they disdain, which politicians they feel an affinity for and which ones they hold in contempt.
I am a member of the Labour party, not because I believe in everything that party stands for - in fact they are not even the party whose basic views are most similar to my own at the moment – but because, of the two parties which have any real chance of coming to power in Britain at the moment, they are the one I would most like to see in government. Their policies in regard to funding the NHS and lifting the public sector pay cap, and their concerns about the cost of living and, in particular, of housing, are more in accord with my own, and relevant to the life circumstances of myself and my family, than those of the Conservatives. But politics is not sport and should not operate on the basis of tribal loyalties. Should the day come when it makes more sense to vote, say, Liberal Democrat (as I have done in more than one general election in the past) in order for more of the policies that I believe in to have a better chance of being implemented, then I will gladly jump ship and support the Lib Dems. That is the only way in which the idea of finding one’s ‘political home’ makes any sense to me.

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