Here’s a theory I’ve been working on: political parties are cults. They should be clubs for the like-minded, but instead become repulsive repositories that make the people inside more similar, not less, and farther away from the general public, not closer. They encourage closed minds, adoration of party leaders, disbelief of crimes committed, putting the good of the cult above the good of other people – in this case the country! Look at the way canvassers go from door to door, inquiring about votes, the currency of the cult, rather than ideology. We don’t want to change the minds of the electorate, we want them to support our particular cult getting into power instead of that other one, and ideally joining the cult and helping spread the membership..
writes Zadok Day as he blogs his departure from the Lib Dems here.
Now I should put it out there right now. I like Zadok and believe our politics are pretty well aligned so I more times than not will be on his side in any political discussion. His decision to leave the party is disappointing but it is understandable. I think we all reach the stage where we just struggle with banging our heads against a brick wall and wonder what the point of it all is. Sometimes time away from the front line will re-energise people and the fire can burn once more but sometimes it doesn’t.
Now to to his point about political parties being cults. It is an interesting and astute observation. Do political parties try to educate people into their ethos and values or do they just try to get people to vote for them? Sometimes I look at people in various political parties and don’t see them as people I’d expect to represent that parties ethos and values. Hence why so many people defect from one party to another – they do so for various reasons but councillors often defect for political reasons and not for reasons surrounding values. People defect for personal reasons that they do not like someone else in the party. Many have left the Lib Dems not because of the coalition (although many, many have) but they have left because they simply don’t like Nick Clegg, or don’t like David Laws, or don’t like Chris Huhne etc…
One thing I will say I disagree with Zadok on though is that unlike a cult – there is no slavish love of the leader. Nick Clegg is not someone who everyone likes even – heck many don’t even respect him but stay in the party because they see themselves as the true Lib Dems and they’ll be there even after Nick leaves.
However I have felt at times personally that if you have a different PoV to the majority then you are looked down upon and not engaged in conversation. Look at one of the most passionate things that many Lib Dems back at the moment on the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign. Now whilst they aren’t asking for legal reasons to ban Page 3 they are singling out one publication whereas other publications do exactly the same but are being ignored. It also seems wrong to me that one section of society can decide that they are the spokespeople for that section of society despite never being voted in. Some women may (and clearly do) want to sell topless pictures of themselves.
On to canvassing. It is a brilliant point that we don’t speak to people about their ideologies and values but we ask about who they vote for. Surely we should be finding out what people stand for and what they believe in. If we can understand that then we can better understand the electorate. I have said for eons that I think more people are broadly liberal in their views than vote Liberal Democrat. The issue is then do people not vote for the Lib Dems because they don’t see the point or because they don’t believe that the Lib Dems stand for liberals?
I have found in my time that the more you actually talk to someone about ideologies and values the more they come around to thinking liberally. Talking about votes and policy does the job short-term but the more you speak to someone about what they stand for and what liberalism is then I genuinely have found the more that people will think of themselves as liberal. Now converting this into votes is of course important if the Lib Dems are ever going to have the power to get their liberal ideologies into more people’s lives but maybe here upon lies yet another problem – are the Lib Dems really the natural home for liberals?
You’d like to think so but it isn’t that simple any more. Now the other major parties certainly can’t claim to be liberal – Iraq war, 42 days detention with no charges, a distrust of foreigners and the EU, secret courts etc.. are all things other parties have done or wanted to do. The Lib Dems have clearly done some good on this front but have they strayed away from ideology? That is a question for another day but it is probably a legitimate one.
I would love to live in a world where the liberals ran the show. However just as important is having more people broadly seeing themselves as liberals. With so many people these days migrating towards extremism and genuinely not having a liberal attitude to fellow human beings who may want to live and work in this country then it concerns me greatly. The liberal viewpoint sounds ideological but it is the ideology that I buy into.
It is a sad day that Zadok has decided to leave but I understand his PoV and even if he isn’t a member I hope he still engages with people with his liberal ideologies. The more liberal a society is then the better and happier I think it will be – and that – not votes – should be our number one aim.
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