|Red 7 over Scampton yesterday.|
Nope, I've not missed a space in that title! I've said a few times on here, and repeatedly elsewhere on social media that I was brought up to believe that someone's "personal political opinions" should be just that - personal, and once again recently I have seen something that entirely underlines the common sense of that. All too often those with strong publicly aired party political standpoints seem to allow that to cloud their consideration and understanding of the fact that those with different views are also entitled to an opinion, and that disagreeing with that opinion does not necessarily make the other person "wrong" - it simply means that they see things in a different way. Also, it often seems to mean that on the occasions when perhaps, secretly, they feel that "their" political party has maybe got things a bit wrong, they are unable to just sit quietly with that, or even better, to acknowledge it, but instead they feel that they must continue to defend that party's stance at all costs, even if in the back of their heads maybe they are thinking "hmmm, actually, I'm none too comfortable with that one, either" - being seen to "stand as one"and not acknowledge so much as a chink of doubt in the policies though trumps the conscience speaking up.
Obviously I vote, always in general elections, generally in local elections. As far as I can think I have never voted in EU elections although this has certainly in recent years been due to those often falling at a time when I will not be at home to vote, and simply not feeling bothered enough about them (or in all honesty as though it made a great deal of difference to the bigger picture) to bother getting a postal vote sorted. I employ lots of different reasons to decide where my vote will be placed in each case, but "party loyalty" is not one of them. When a survey asks me which political party I support, I choose the "none" option. There have been leaders of every political party in the years since I have been of an age to vote that I have mistrusted hugely for various reasons - but none that I have "hated" - I don't know them so how could I possibly make such a sweeping and personal judgement? There have been others - again across pretty much all parties - who I have respected a great deal, for what they stand for, for their approach to a particular situation, or for the way they have dealt with adversity. I don't believe that all supporters of a particular party are cut from the same cloth - I have friends of all manner of political persuasions and judge them on their personal behaviours and values, and how they treat others, NOT their political party of choice. I also have a fair few friends who I could honestly not even begin to guess where their political allegiance might lie - but finding out would make no difference to that friendship. In the run up to the last general election I unfriended someone on Facebook after they wrote as a status that they hated all those who would vote for X party and would never have those people as friends - my unfriending not being about whether I was planning to vote for the party in question, but because I found the viewpoint that which box someone would put a pencilled cross in could wipe out so many other factors utterly abhorrent, and I realised that I simply didn't want to consider myself friends with a person who felt that view was acceptable. I would never dream of ending a friendship because someone's political views differed from my own - if however they allow those views to mean that they treat me, or others with disregard, spite or as somehow "less worthy"then that is a different matter - then it is they who have made the decision, by their actions, to end the relationship. I tend to walk away from, or at least withdraw from, conversations about party politics - I find them, and the emotions that they can so often draw to the fore in others, really very stressful, and so often sweeping statements get made by those who are passionate about a specific political party with little consideration for the feelings of those who choose to place their vote differently. Personally all I can do to counter this affecting me is to ensure that where someone allows their political views to justify them in treating others badly, I will continue to choose to step away from that person, unfortunately that will probably not do much on a bigger scale to stop them continuing to practice such unpleasantness - but at least I won't be exposed to it.
Similarly, not having a strong allegiance to a particular party also means that it is possible to treat areas of policy on their own merits. In the current situation with Covid-19 for example I think that there have been areas where the UK Government and devolved administrations have performed extremely well, and others where they have performed far less so. The instances of local health trusts discharging infected patients into care homes should have been dealt with very differently, and far faster (although really, should it have been necessary to tell them that they should not be doing this? You would think not - however it seems for the future that the learning curve here is that even the things you would not imagine people would dream of doing do need spelling out as unacceptable!) and I feel really uncomfortable with the way things have been leaked to the media ahead of being formally announced leading to confusion. If the UK media were capable of being trusted to report things in a responsible and non sensationalised way then this may perhaps have worked - as it is though they are not, and this has lead to far more confusion over some things than there should have been. Similarly my personal view is that social distancing should remain at 2m for the time being - the devolved administrations of Scotland & Wales have in my opinion at least until the last week or so dealt with the messaging around that far, far better - by reducing distancing to 1m in some circumstances as has been done in England it is inevitably going to lead to a lot of people feeling that they can just use 1m regardless, and that makes me uncomfortable - more for those who are vulnerable to infection than for myself, although it concerns me that I could potentially pick up the virus as a result and unknowingly pass it to my Dad, for example. Similarly the 5 mile radius restriction on movements in both Wales & Scotland shows quite how removed from so much of those countries their administrations are. As a friend of mine put it "we've not even got so much as a pint of milk within 5 miles!" - if you're in Glasgow or Cardiff then you're unlikely to have too many issues, but there are huge swathes of both countries where the issue is exactly that, people don't even have a shop that close, far less friends or family to visit!
At the start of the current national emergency a number of politicians made clear that they were going to suspend party politics in favour of adopting a far kinder and more supportive approach. The view seemed to be that those in charge of setting out how the crisis was to be dealt with had a tough enough job without having to take the time to also deal with being pulled apart purely because they were from the "wrong" party, and I know a huge number of people really appreciated and respected this approach. Inevitably as time has moved on party politics have returned, rightly so - but it feels as though even now there is less "bitching and sniping" just for the sake of it at that level. It may be that in fact it is still happening, but just for whatever reason, being reported less, but the result (it feeling as though there is less unpleasantness just for the sake of it) is the same. Sadly, on a more general level though, it does feel as though things have returned to normal, or even worse. Those who were cheerfully advocating #BeKind a few months back appear to have forgotten how to do that, or more likely no longer care now the hashtag isn't trending. Twitter is once again a pretty toxic place (I'm almost entirely living in notifications on there at the moment) and FaceBook is heading in a similar direction with much the same results. One of the things I have seen recently which resonated most strongly with me and seems appropriate here is "People keep saying we should go back to normal - instead how about we try to go forwards, to something better" - a lovely sentiment, and one which I truly wish more people would consider.