In which Andrew Dennis ponders the effect firmly held beliefs are having on our political discourse..
The thing I think most needs to change in politics, locally and nationally, is the continued entrenchment of political philosophies, culture, tradition and views. Views that are wrapped up in a political dogma, attitude or belief that isn’t perhaps as relevant today as it might have been when a person’s views were first formed – often in their teenage years, or, in the case of Chelsea Clinton, whose parents encouraged her take part in philosophical, social and political debate around the dinner table at the age of 5, much earlier!
Entrenchment is defined in an online dictionary resource as the fact of an attitude, habit or belief becoming so firmly established that change is very difficult or unlikely. The 1980s seem to be the time, in my lifetime, when views hardened, to the right, to the left, and you were either one of us, or one of them.
It was a time of great wealth for some, as typified by the birth of the ‘yuppy’ tag – young, upwardly mobile types, who were ambitious and successful and who didn’t mind who knew it. It was, conversely, a time of great poverty and misery for others – witness the year-long miners strike (1984-5), which left communities and families divided, in ways that make the division we see brought about by Brexit look like a mild disagreement over what to have for tea.
But these times were 30 years ago. They aren’t really fully relevant to today’s problems, which seem to me, in no particular order, to be about homelessness, the mental well-being of young people, the unaffordability of housing for future generations, and climate change (and related environmental factors).
And for many or all of these things, we’re all in it together, as someone once said – we’re all affected, or likely to be affected, by one or more of those four issues – as parents, as residents, as members of the local community.
So what is needed, I think, is less dogma and more ideas. Less sniping and dredging up of old crimes and misdemeanors, and more joined-up thinking to solve problems in our patch. More collaboration and thought, as well as thoughtfulness and consideration.
I read a lot of local political debate on Twitter and I’m struck by how vehemently strongly people disagree with each other, and I’ve never hugely seen this as a problem. Most discussions rarely get personal or abusive, and although there are local people on Twitter with whom I disagree with on virtually everything, to the left and to the right, I always keep in mind that these people hold passionate views because they are engaged – they want change to happen, they want their views to find favour with decision makers. Rather them than those with no view, or those who don’t vote, in my estimation.
But the odd bit of dogma still pertains, and you can witness this quite often through a quick look at a Twitter timeline such as mine, which is heavy on the politics. Old wounds about the SNP and Thatcher being revisited; something about Corbyn and someone he was on a stage with in 1985; the Lib Dems ‘propping up the Tories’ in 2010..
Move on. Look forward, not backward. Find a cross-party, and cross-community consensus among people who want to look for solutions, rather than dig up the bodies buried in the past.
Something heartening happened last month. On Twitter, unbelievably.
Two protagonists were facing each other down over something that escapes me for the moment, but was possibly to do with one of them being a woman with views, which the other person found, frankly, to be a bit presumptive.
Anyway, to put a stop to the angry direction to where the conversation seemed to be headed, one said to the other: “Let’s catch up over a coffee and talk about this face to face, I’m sure that will help us see each other’s point of view in a less angry fashion” – or words to that effect.
And I thought to myself, I might write a piece for The Political Medway that ends on that note.
Andrew Dennis lives in Rochester and runs social engagement projects for young people in Medway and beyond. He once got bins installed in the Monument Gardens, and is currently unrepresented by either of the two main political parties.