I wrote this post over a year ago and a lot has changed since then. Me and my political thinking chief among them.
Oh, I haven’t converted to the Church of Corbyn or anything like that, but I do think I’ve drifted much more towards “The Centre” than I’ve previously ever been. I think I might even have drifted slightly left of centre, if I’m being completely honest with myself.
Only slightly left, though.
Or maybe the world around me has lurched a long way to the right? Is that it?
I’ve always considered myself to be slightly right of centre. I have always believed in the rights and responsibilities of the individual over The State. I’ve always believed that The State should be there to provide the public services that it’s not realistic (or should that be profitable) for The Market to provide, to look after those who can’t look after themselves and to provide a helping hand back onto their feet to people who’ve fallen on hard times.
And I still believe all that. I really do. But I think it’s my definitions of what’s realistic for The Market to provide and those who can’t look after themselves and what the helping hand is that have changed.
I don’t know. Maybe my definitions haven’t changed and it’s simply the case that Brexit has broken everything and throughout 2018 the extremists on both The Right and The Left have felt released to say the things they’ve been thinking for years but never dared say before, making my position seem more moderate and ‘Centrist’ than ever before.
But having listened to the public debate, which grows more and more toxic with each passing day, become more extreme at both ends, it’s made me question my own views, compare them to others and consider ideas that I’d have dismissed out of hand previously.
The Railways, for example. I now think that having the railways, a public service, run for a profit by private companies might not be such a good idea. It leads to corners being cut to save money with the aim of increasing the dividends to shareholders.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of shareholder dividends. I hold shares myself through my pension and ISA so I want those dividends to be as high as possible, thank you very much. But the railways are such a crucial part of our national infrastructure, that surely any money they generate should be put back into making the service safer and more reliable.
I don’t think straight ‘nationalisation’ and return to the days of British Rail is ideal either though, so maybe a hybrid solution can be found. Natwest has been run as a private company, but owned in the majority by the Government ever since the crash in 2008, so why can’t we do the same with the railways? Run them as Government owed, not-for-profit companies, with no special rights or market privileges? Indeed, as a public service, they’d actually have increased responsibilities.
Universal Basic Income is something else I’ve been thinking about. It’s something I laughed at when presented by the Greens during the 2015 election campaign, but the more I think about it, the more I see merit in it. Of course, the more I think about it, the more I also see the problems any government would have in implementing it, but I think it could be done if the political will were there.
I guess what I’m trying to say, is that I’ve changed politically more in the past twelve months than at any time in my life before. And it’s happened at a time when the political parties in this country are changing more than they have in decades, moving further apart from each other and, I believe, from the public at large. Sure, some of the people have been dragged right or left along with the Tories and Labour, but I do think there are more people like me now, people who feel politically homeless, as if we don’t have anyone to vote for, than there has ever been.
My boy is thirteen now. A Teenager. And I still try, whenever I can, to make sure we’re listening to political debate and try and educate him politically. But while I was sure of where I stood and where I wanted to lead him a year ago, I no longer am.
And that may not be a bad thing. Maybe it’s good for him to see his father trying to work out the current climate for himself, at the same time that he is trying to work it out. This, at least, will show him that one’s views are not fixed, that you can change your mind when the facts or the circumstances change.
Ultimately, being the best, most engaged of political citizens requires thought and an ability to look at all sides of an argument and make a value judgement. And politically dogmatic people, those who have always swung the same way and are rigid in their views, don’t do that. They are not the ones that affect the results of elections. It’s people like me that decide elections.
And that’s not a bad position to be in. Unless you don’t have anyone to vote for.