You know what’s wrong with politics? You are. You, with your opinions and your Twitter and your Facebook groups. Your £3 political party non-memberships. Your hashtag games.
You are, I am, we is. All split off into our little tribes, haven’t we, especially since Brexit. One side lined up against the other. Swearing and name-calling, spitting at the ‘other’ in the street, throwing molotov cocktails through the windows of halal butchers. (This last may be more one side in particular.)
And look at the political left. I mean, look at the bloody state of it. It’s less than a month since a Labour MP got shot in the street by a man who later declared “death to traitors” and you’ve got people on Twitter saying the “only good Blairite is a dead one”; phoning up an MP’s constituency offices and threatening to kick the shit out of staff; throwing bricks through windows; hand delivering death threats to a PR agency; Paul Mason referencing traitors in context of a no-confidence vote.
(As an aside: what happened to Paul Mason? Does someone need to take him into a comfortable room and get him to show on a doll where the Labour Party hurt him?)
Tribalism is the worst thing about politics. I remember back in the dim and distant days of the coalition, a Lib Dem conference got deluged with tweets about the Health and Social Care Act. Attendees started responding, accusing people of being Labour activists. As though nobody could possibly be concerned about moves to privatise parts of the NHS without having been ‘put up to it’. These Lib Dems had got so used to playing political games they literally couldn’t see outside.
And now we have Momentum and the Corbynistas. These people should be my people but they scare the crap out of me. In another life they’d be wearing tinfoil hats and stocking up on canned goods, but they’ve found the Labour party and decided that the only reason Jeremy Corbyn isn’t making much headway (though of course he is making headway, haven’t you heard that he won the London mayoralty race? Practically single handed? Never mind that Sadiq Khan didn’t want Corbyn anywhere near him? It was totally all Jez?) is a conspiracy by the media and the Labour right. Sorry, I mean Blairites.
(Remember Blair? Hasn’t been in British politics for nine years? Still to blame for everything? That guy?)
Let’s not mention the conspiracy by the voting public who should be gagging for an alternative to austerity, but who are turning in droves to UKIP instead. It’s a conspiracy, I tells ya.
Tribes. Echo chambers. Let’s hang out with our mates and talk about political purity and throw abuse at the people who are doing work on behalf of the people who elected them. Let’s not engage in actual dialogue to form a broad, electable coalition. Let’s hold adoring rallies for the Dear Leader that voters in Blackburn and Teesside will take one look at and dismiss as a bunch of middle class, southern wankers.
I’ve always prided myself on being on the left. I used to joke that I didn’t vote Labour because “I’m a socialist”. I’ve voted Green for several elections. And now I find myself a centrist, because to identify with the left at the moment is to identify with a bunch of fucking fanatics. I object to this. I’m meant to be the outraged, principled outlier. These days I find myself defending Theresa May. What tribe do I belong to now?