If you want somebody to stop talking to you, especially the type of person you find handing out leaflets on the high street wearing an angry face and a beanie hat, tell them you are a Tory activist. It works every time. Immediate judgement follows, and that judgement is that you are a bastard.
I know, because I have done this. I am not Tory by the way (not really), and I am certainly not a Tory activist. My politics are actually (like most people in this country) quite middle of the road – I lean to the right on some issues, and to the left on others (in so much that certain views can be pigeon-holed in simplistic left-right terms, which is not always the case). So, on the one hand I am libertarian, believe in free (but not entirely unregulated) markets and small Government. On the other hand I support same-sex marriage, equal opportunities and universal health care (not that I think these ideas are exclusively left wing by the way). I believe the UK should withdraw from the EU, yet I support the idea of a minimum wage. You get the idea.
Like most people then, I am not particularly easy to pin down politically. My politics are very much my own, and while I would not rule out the possibility that I might vote for the Conservative Party (or another centre-right party) at some future point, that does not say anything about me as a person, certainly not enough to make a preconceived judgement about me and my moral compass.
But people do this, which brings me back to the Tory activist thing. Several years ago I was at work when I mentioned to colleagues a story I was reading in the newspaper about a senior Tory figure who had died suddenly and tragically at the Glastonbury music festival. I can’t recall the exact circumstances or indeed his name, let alone whether he was a good egg or a bad egg. A quick Google search could answer much of that, but I shall refrain because in the context of this story it is irrelevant.
All we knew at that precise moment, was that somebody successful and popular had met their untimely end in tragic circumstances leaving behind a distraught and grieving family. A sad story no? You’d have thought so, but not to my colleague (we’ll call him Dick), whose reflex response when I recited this story was to snort and declare, ‘the only good Tory is a dead Tory’.
The uncomfortable silence that followed was eventually broken by my declaration that I was a Conservative Party activist, and how I was curious to know if Dick was turned on by the prospect of me dieing in similar circumstances, and how he thought that would make my wife and daughter feel (who he’d met). He grunted and shrugged but there was no effort to backtrack. We worked in the same building for the following twelve months, but we spoke perhaps only three times during that period.
I was angered by that statement, and I’m angry now as I recall it. How can you possibly judge someone you don’t know, and indeed take pleasure in the death of that individual, based solely on which of the two leading mainstream and moderate political parties they choose to support? That is absurd isn’t it? Well, surely, but based on the sort of things you read in the comments beneath online articles from The Guardian, there are a significant number of people who are convinced of their moral superiority. To be a Tory is to be a bastard, and there is no real doubting that.
Except of course, there is, because it is nonsense. Take a friend of mine, Conservative to the core, and yet without doubt the most decent, warm, charitable and generous person I have ever met. Somebody who doesn’t just talk, he does. He will walk a hundred miles for causes he believes in, and he has cycled a thousand. He’ll help people financially if he can (and he isn’t wealthy), and he’ll give his time to anyone who needs it. A good person then, but alas, as he walks the streets in his rosette at election time those higher beings are never slow to remind him that he is, in fact, ‘Tory Scum’.
I am sure Dick would too remind him of that fact given the chance. From what I knew of Dick, he didn’t really do much. He worked, he played computer games, listened to music and spent a good deal of time on left wing internet message boards. Fine, I won’t judge anyone for that. But I doubt very much he’ll be remembered as having made a particularly positive contribution to human history (not that many of us will really).
What I am absolutely convinced of however, is that in the mind of Dick and others like him, they believe completely and unquestionably in their moral and ethical superiority over those that choose a slightly different political path, even if it veers only slightly to the right. This has nothing to do with what you do and how you live your life, and everything to do with what you say and what you believe. This is an age where it is more important to be moralistic than it is to be moral, where what you say is more important than what you do.
At some point in the near future we’ll hear of a senior politician or public figure caught saying something a little bit out of step with what those that hold the moral compass in this country deem acceptable. They will be criticised, castigated, forced to resign and pretty much sidelined for the rest of their career. Of course, I’m not completely oblivious to the fact that in politics, and indeed within the Conservative Party, there are some unpleasant individuals that deserve all they get. But not always, but people don’t seem to care all that much about that. It doesn’t matter if what they said was heat of the moment, or taken out of context, that they said it is all that matters. Never in these situations do people stop to consider the person; what they have done, what they have achieved, who they really are. They said something, and that is the end of it.
The age of the doer is over, say the right things and you’ll go far however, because the moralistic now rule the moral.
Although I suspect it is a little too late, I ask nevertheless that Dick and all those other self-righteous oxygen thieves are consigned to Room 101 forthwith. Let them spout their bile amongst themselves behind a locked door. Perhaps then the rest of us, the moderate majority from left and right, can rediscover what it is to be good and do good things, rather than simply sit on our backsides being told what to think and say as though it is enough. It isn’t.