'You Should Be Friends With Your Political Enemies!' No. F**k Off.
There is something to be said for dialogue. For empathetic understanding. For putting yourself into another person’s shoes. Communication is, after all, the crucial x-factor that allowed humanity to drag itself out of the shadows of toothy predators and to the top of this vicious hierarchy that is the natural world.
As Shaun once said that Bertrand Russell once said: ‘The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.’
And of course love is great, because All You Need Is Love and Love Trumps Hate and all of that jazz.
But there are wrinkles of nuance to consider. Wrinkles of nuance and rage.
The lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, more commonly known as the House of Commons, is a body made up of 650 elected constituency representatives. It meets in the Palace of Westminster, and it is where some of the business of government is done in this country. Here, laws can be considered and proposed, policies scrutinised, and debate had. You might have seen some footage from it. It can be a hell of a spectacle. Members of the parties file into an ornate chamber where they sit facing each other from across the divide, layers of seats staggered vertically and rising up as you get further away from the front benches. Bound by archaic rules both explicit and unspoken, the House can at times resemble a school playground. The opposing galleries, stacked with seated mobs made up of mostly posh white men in suits, jeer and heckle each other as members from the other side try to put forward their marginally different opinions on a variety of topics. Sometimes, when someone who represents a genuine threat to the status quo appears, all hell can break loose.
Seeing the House of Commons in loud, boisterous action for the first time can often leave a person with two main impressions:
1) ‘Bloody hell what a bunch of braying children. What is this, a pantomime?’
2) ‘Well, at least they are passionate about what they believe in and are aware of who their ideological opponents are and they act accordingly. Adversarial politics—good stuff!’
That’s the facade. The reality is far more consensual and convivial. MPs exhibit the same kind of behaviour that one would expect of people in any professional environment. They mingle, talk, and make friends across party divides. Parliament is served by a good number of pubs and bars, several of them selling alcohol at a reduced, subsidised rate—a perk that some MPs have been criticised for abusing in the past, but which most use like the rest of us would: For relaxing after a hard day’s work, and for a greasing of the social gears and a facilitation of an amicable atmosphere.
There are those, however, who would describe the atmosphere there as ‘too amicable.’
The snap election of 2017 saw a Corbyn-led Labour party pull off one of the biggest upsets in modern political history. One of its many gains was thanks to a young woman named Laura Pidcock, who won the right to represent her North West Durham constituency in Westminster. Her seat was a safe Labour seat, but nevertheless in June Ms. Pidcock became one of the new generation of leftist politicians who would be entering Parliament young, angry, and vocal. Recently the young MP gave an interview in which she described what it was like to transition from the working class North into the gilded halls of Westminster. She said:
My very very initial reflections are that there are two basic types of Tory. You’ve got the ones - like Boris Johnson - who are so blinded by their own privilege and have never experienced hardship, that they genuinely seem unable to see what it’s like in our communities.
If they see someone in tears from the sheer weight of everything that’s being piled on top of them their reaction is, ‘oh you’re being very dramatic’.
The other type is completely ideologically driven. They seem genuinely to believe capitalism is the best way to improve society and it blinds them to the evidence under their nose.
I have met a couple of Tories who were genuinely really anxious for me to see that they weren’t horrible people and really believed putting everything into private enterprise will achieve better results.
Whatever type they are, I have absolutely no intention of being friends with any of them. I have friends I choose to spend time with. I go to parliament to be a mouthpiece for my constituents and class - I’m not interested in chatting on.
I feel disgusted at the way they’re running this country, it’s visceral - I’m not interested in being cosy.
The idea that they’re not the enemy is simply delusional when you see the effect they have on people - a nation where lots of people live in a constant state of fear whether they even have enough to eat.
The whole interview is worth a read but those sections specifically had me slapping the table and repeatedly hollering ‘YES! Yes. Too fucking right.’ Sometimes, a fresh perspective can be the most revolutionary thing in the world. As a brand new Member of Parliament, Laura Pidcock is entering the Westminster bubble with two very important assets: That fresh perspective, yet to be tainted by cynicism or experience; and the very real and righteous anger of her constituents with which she is imbued. Because as their elected representative, Laura Pidcock is their anger made flesh, an avatar of a collective voice crying out to be heard. So it is, in theory, with every politician.
In practice, things are usually different. There is a certain class of politician, often referred to as the ‘professional’ or ‘career’ politician, that illustrates the too-common reality. Those labels there are not exactly perfect, but the scorn behind them and the type of person they are aimed at are dead on. These are, in short, the politicians whose goals and perspectives are divorced from the people they ostensibly represent. The ones who use politics as a means to further themselves rather than the interests of others. One of capitalism’s greatest strengths is its remarkable ability to absorb and co-opt its critics and enemies. A similar thing happens in politics. It happens via a two-pronged process:
One is compromise. Compromise is a mark of maturity, a great virtue. It has a dangerous side—a habit of dulling principle and conviction—but it remains understandable.
The other is less forgivable. This is the chumminess that develops in the halls of power as people who have originally been sent to do a job start to forget why they are where they are. They forget that some of the other people there are trying their hardest to make sure that they do not do their job. As a politician, it is one thing to be bare polite minimum friendly with someone with whom you vehemently disagree with; it is another thing entirely to be friends with them.
‘I might be a Labour MP, but you know what, I consider many Tory MPs to be good friends!’ Go fuck yourself.
Jess Philips is a right-leaning Labour MP. Jacob Rees-Mogg is a Tory MP. Phillips, according to a profile in The Guardian, ‘is much taken with Jacob Rees-Mogg’, who she finds, ‘charming and funny, kind, mad and totally himself’.
Hahaha, yes, good old kind Jacob Rees-Mogg. Here he is in all his aristocratic glory:
Good old Jacob Rees-Mogg, a multi-millionaire who is—amongst many other things—completely against abortion, even in cases of rape; who is against same sex marriage; who doesn’t believe in green energy; who thinks international aid should be abolished; who loves UKIP as the ‘natural allies’ of the Tories; and who voted against a law that would have compelled landlords to make sure that their properties are fit for human habitation.
Good old kind Jacob Rees-Mogg. He’s lovely isn’t he, Jess Philips?
Fuck you. Kind is as kind votes.
Yes, we should strive to be polite and cordial with our fellow human beings, but you know what: When someone’s decisions have the kind of impact that they do in politics, you can fuck right off with your ‘but we’re good friends’ drivel. Why would you want to be friends with someone who enacts awful policies?
I don’t want my politicians to be friends. I want them to be spartan and ascetic. I want my elected representative to be a fucking warrior monk whose only mission is the dismantling of the horrors built by the other side, and a building of a better world in spite of them. I don’t want them wondering whether that kind of adversarial attitude might make their planned dinner at the Savoy next Friday fucking awkward or not.
Yes, communication and empathy are the cornerstones of humanity. But when you’re a politician, sometimes there’s other shit that’s more important. Because when the other side is responsible for pushing an ideological economic policy that results in what is essentially a mass culling of the weak—
When that other side is all too happy to prop up and support despotic regimes as they decimate civilian populations—
Or when they work tirelessly to ensure the impoverishment of future generations—
Then I don’t give a fuck whether you want to be friendly or not.
It’s not about dehumanising the ‘other side’. It’s not about othering. It’s about seeing with clarity what is being done, and knowing the moral imperative that you have to oppose it. No fond feelings clouding judgement, no potential dinner plans halting action.
Fuck that shit. They aren’t your friends.
And if they are then fine, but you’re fired. Go have dinner at your house as private citizens. You don’t get to be responsible for policy anymore.
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