Thursday, 20 December 2012
First things first: I am not a Tory, I don't vote Tory and am unlikely to vote Tory in the future. That is because, at a very simple level, I assume the Tories represent the haves and big business, and Labour represent the have-nots and the employees. On most issues, therefore, I am likely to approve the Labour rather than the Conservative line.
In order to do so I don't necessarily have to think every Tory is 'something lower than vermin' as Nye Bevan put it, though he was strictly referring to the party itself and not individuals associated with it. Tories don't sit round plotting Evil: they want the best as they see it which may include kindliness and graciousness and a good many virtues. They probably see themselves as realists (from a certain point of view) and those who disagree with them as idealists (from a certain point of view). It is possible to think much of what they think and yet be a good person. It's just that they are wrong.
As concerns individuals I assume that being of a leftward persuasion, I am more likely to make friends among people who think and feel like myself, as indeed most people in the arts do. The arts, and probably most of humanities, are preset to the left, some a good deal further left than I am, though in some respects I would probably be approaching the red end of the spectrum rather than the faint blush in the middle. I am in other words a left-liberal with occasional bouts of passionate intensity as Yeats might have put it, though he did not intend that as praise.
However, I am not quite a paid-up member of the left-liberal group either, even among my friends, because my refugee background and intuitive responses - or so I suspect - are differently disposed. I am without firm class and educational group credentials. My fear about the far left is that it mirrors the far right in its contempt for anyone not fully sold on its ideas, in its authoritarian instincts as regards imposing its will, and in its absolute conviction that it is right, a conviction I severely lack. But then my fears about the left-liberal group, my own group in fact, is that we assume that we are nice and just and cleverer than anyone else and that, in short, we too suffer from a vaguely absolute conviction that we are right. About, well, pretty well everything.
So when Andrew Mitchell appears to have been framed by two policemen, I wonder how far out of line I am in feeling that Mitchell - despite being undeniably a Tory - does not deserve to be lied about. Not even if we should persuade ourselves that the lie is probably true in some way we can't quite prove. As far as I'm concerned if people have in lied in their evidence about him they are simply wrong.
It is a question of what trumps what. I think true evidence trumps party stereotype even when a figure appears to be pretty close to stereotype. I don't imagine Mitchell is my kind of guy. I don't imagine I am his. But truth isn't about being my kind of guy or even about someone being my political opponent. It's just truth.
Odd that I should feel it necessary to say this. But somehow it does feel necessary. Not that I care deeply about Andrew Mitchell and his loss of a job. Frankly, there are many more interesting things to think about than whether Mr Mitchell should or should not be Tory Whip. Saying this feels necessary because there is something in all group feeling that is deeply disturbing. Love your friends and resist them a little. Resist kindly. Resist intelligently. Resist them lovingly, if you will. But resist. Resist the group feeling in everything. Resist it a little but do what needs to be done.