A measured response
Jennings attempts to counterpoint Keevil’s old posts, but instead has a breakdown about his political positions and gets a few things off his chest.
It’s a bit of an odd situation to be tasked with responding to a set of blog posts that were written four years ago. It’s an even odder one when they begin with a central conceit that I can’t even get my head around: that Conservatives are evil. (The actual conceit is dealing with the fact they aren’t, but nevermind. – Keevil)
I’ve never been a Conservative by any stretch of the imagination. (sometime’s it’s not that much of a stretch – Keevil) But equally, I’ve never had the hatred for them that many a few years older than me seem to. Indeed, many of the politicians I admire tend to come from the Conservative benches. There is no one stronger in the Commons on civil liberties than David Davis. Until he buggered off to UKIP, Douglas Carswell was one of the most forward thinking voices on electoral reform. I even have a grudging respect for Michael Gove. Wait, come back. I have a lot of problems with what Gove has done, but there are few politicians of such conviction amongst the newer intake. (I’d rather a lack of conviction then a repeat of the Gove effect on education – Keevil)
I suspect part of this is my age. At 32, I never really experienced the periods that others seem to be most angry about. By the time I was politically aware, most of the damage was already done. More importantly, starting to engage around the turn of the century, there was a new enemy to fight: the (New) Labour party. The double whammy of the Iraq war and their dismantling of civil liberties entrenched a distrust of them so deep that I still find Labour to be the most off-putting of the major parties.
Of course though, politicians are individuals are the idea of an entire group of them being inherently evil, or all inherently good, is completely absurd. I’ve met remarkably friendly people in all parties. I’ve met people I disagree with but who truly believe they are doing the right thing in all parties. I’ve met arseholes in all parties. I don’t believe it’s helpful to characterise an entire party, positively or negatively, but doing so makes our politics far easier to justify.
I have a dirty little secret: I hate the political compass. (Its really not a secret – Keevil) Sure, it’s fun to answer a bunch of questions and be told where you sit on a scale. Sure, it’s more helpful than a straight left or right scale. But something being twice as useful as something completely useless isn’t necessarily that helpful either. (So we should change the name of the blog? – Keevil)
I had a lengthy Twitter exchange with a friend the other day over what I define myself as politically. I’ve struggled with this a lot over the years. When I first engaged with politics, I was a liberal. Then it turns out that label doesn’t apply to you if you are in favour of a free market. So I became a libertarian. Then it turns out a lot of them are lunatics in favour of no government at all. So I became a classical liberal. Limited government, free markets, individual liberty and all that. The problem is that no one has a clue what a classical liberal is, and it still doesn’t fit perfectly.
Pigeonholing aside, this has a detrimental impact on your political thinking. When taking a position on an issue of the day, everything becomes too knee-jerk. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. In recent months, I took up positions against plain packaging on cigarettes, against a ‘mansion tax’, and against an increase in the higher rate of income tax. Have I spent a lot of time thinking about these positions and looking arguments on either side? Not really. These just feel like the right stands to take. Which means somewhere along the line, without even realising it, truthiness became a real thing.