It seems sometimes that Britain is a fragmented land, divided into warring tribes that cannot and will never be reconciled. A horrible miserable place of constant conflict, bitterness and division.
I believe that as Great Britains and as human beings we actually all share very, very similar values. Underneath it all, we are all ‘Team GB’ and we have a great deal to be proud of.
However, different people have different PRIORITIES and therefore care MORE about some things than others.
The British, adversarial political system magnifies the differences through competition for majority rule and power. To win you have to make yourself seem like the best. You also have to differentiate yourself from your opponent EVEN when you basically agree with them.
In the midst of all this conflict, picking of sides and drawing of battle lines I’d like to remind myself and hopefully the reader that we don’t live in a nation of enemies, we’re actually all pretty much on the same side the vast majority of the time. So I’m not going to look at policies or arguments; things that can be twisted, manipulated and crippled by prejudice, cynicism and doubt before you’ve even had chance to apply reason to them.
Instead, I’m interested in the values that we share; that from the perspective of those that hold them would indeed seem vital to us if we were in the same position.
And I’m going to do so in the run up to the coming election one major party at a time.
To be clear, I’m making no endorsement of any particular party, set of politicians or their policies. I’m only interested in trying to understand the values that matter most to the people likely to vote for them. For the sake of brevity, I’m looking at the top six in terms of their likely overall vote share so apologies if you have some affiliation with the others.
THE LABOUR PARTY
The one crowning value that seems to sit above all others for Labour party voters is kindness; sharing with and caring for those less fortunate. And the clue is in the phrase; the idea that bad luck and the circumstances of birth should be compensated by those with the power to make it happen. I believe it to be a central human value and certainly a British one that vulnerable people need care and protection and where possible, and it is right that we provide it. That goes for those on the margins of our country too, people who are different and may not fit in with the rest of us should not just be tolerated but included in our society.
And inclusion leads us to another value: that of community. It is sometimes easy to forget, sitting in our homes, plugged into all of our technology, that we all depend so greatly on one another. Look around the room that you are in and you will see a thousand different things, all made by someone else. Take a look in the mirror and you won’t see a person merely raised in isolation, most likely raised by parents, but someone who had teachers, neighbours, coaches, friends and protectors. Police who kept you safe, soldiers who fought wars to protect your freedoms, bus drivers who ferried you from A to B. A sea of unseen bureaucrats have kept the world we take for granted spinning in the right direction for all the time that you have been alive. Even now, when we are perhaps more isolated from other people than we have been before, we still crave belonging and connection to that local village of people that surround us.
The care that Labour voters have for the vast array of people that make up our country, for me at least, forgives them their foibles. Kindness can blind us to the limits of our ability to help. It can warp our sense of the harshness of reality; that simply pouring compassion out into the world is sadly not enough to soften often brutal truths about the state of affairs. That said, it is surely more worthy of our applause and admiration than our criticism, and even when I find frustration with the well-meaning idealism of those on the left, I should probably remind myself that a country that does not sometimes err through trying to be kind would be a far worse place to live than one that was not kind at all.