“When passion meets inspiration, an obsession is born.” – Anonymous
It’s taken me a while to get around to writing this post, because it isn’t one that I thought I’d ever write. I could never imagine myself being one of those people who either actively or passively “don’t care” about UK politics. I’ve always viewed them with a sense of mind-boggling intrigue, often despair, and sometimes, anger — especially when it comes to bright people who I know can change things.
I believed in the Cameron project, and I joined shortly before he was elected leader of the Conservative Party. I view the coalition government as one of the most prudent, liberal and sensible governments to date, and I was proud to serve in a junior capacity, advising a Member of Parliament during these years.
Here’s the thing, though: Since a certain black swan event in 2016, British politics has not been fixated on the things that made me obsess with it in the first place. It hasn’t been particularly concerned with improving or changing the conditions of men, women and children within Britain. It hasn’t really done anything radical on the NHS — apart from ensuring a decline of the number of nurses and doctors within it. It has failed us.
Energy can be conserved for a number of things: Your day-to-day routine, what makes you tick (improving lives is what makes me tick, and I help to do that at First Steps ED), your natural enjoyment out of what you do, learning and developing, and your friends and family.
I recently started an MA in International Relations at Queen Mary, University of London. It has immersed me in global politics. It’s immersed me in the ways in which borders were drawn, have been drawn since, and numerous things which actually interest me.
What doesn’t interest me is the incessant in-fighting within the UK Conservative Party, with one extreme fringe fighting for something that they either know is undeliverable, or don’t. One makes them liars, and the other makes them incompetent. The Labour Party has just had an Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation launched into them with respect to anti-Semitism. These things really disturb me, because I have not lived – and I don’t believe that others reading this – will have lived through such political rot throughout their lives.
Yes, I could get involved and join some sort of fightback, but is it really worth my peace of mind? I will vote in every election to come, but I won’t sacrifice my own well-being arguing within a party which does not know the day of the week, let alone how it will deliver the undeliverable. No rational nor strategic candidate would dare to pursue a WTO Brexit, but with people like Boris Johnson, all bets are off. The “carefully nurtured public image” of being a buffoon hasn’t actually paid off, since we’ve seen the mask slip. He was the worst Foreign Secretary this country has ever had.
And so my Aspie focus, politics, turns to something else. I’d always been obsessed with it, even as a kid. I remember holding a mock General Election in 1997 in my house, somewhat dismayed that my mother wouldn’t cast a vote. It, was, like the rest of the country, a Labour landslide.
I know what I can do to continue with this, though. I can turn my focus internationally. I can immerse myself in an (albeit daunting) but positive degree, and I’ve no idea where that will lead. I’m sure, however, it will keep my mind occupied for two years whilst the country either heals, or it gets worse.
I have never been a natural-born optimist. If I were to make a prediction at this stage (and they are useless, especially with a minority government), my guess would be that if Boris makes the final two, he will probably win. There will in all likelihood be a general election later this year, especially if that happens. Far too many moderate Tories will not allow him to steer the Titanic into the iceberg.
There is the occasional glimmer of hope. The Lib Dem surge in the EU polls suggest that there is a significant proportion of the UK population that will not take this lying down. In fact, considering that it is only anti-EU obsessives which usually vote in these elections, that’s incredibly encouraging.
But politics, just like Change UK (RIP in many a few weeks) said, is fundamentally broken. And I’m finished with it.
There are things that are worth causing yourself stress over: Things that you can control, things that you know should be keeping you awake at night, and things that matter to you – friends and family.
As much as my dismay is for this country, I am not an elected representative (fortunately I dodged that bullet by around 100 votes), I am not a member of any political party, and I do not have to hold on to some bizarre and self-defeating notion that the country will wake up soon. Because it won’t. We are screwed, for a very, very long time.
Learning about real problems in the world, like absolute poverty and emerging nation states is just as appealing to me as British politics once was.
It pains me to say this, but I am well and truly finished. It’s time for a sabbatical involving academia, more contact time with friends and to switch off from all of this.
I went for a blood test a couple of weeks ago and the nurse asked me what I was studying. I told her that I was studying an MA in International Relations. She replied: “Oh, thank God, we’ll need you.” And you know what? Even in two years, since it’s part-time, I think she’s right. And then I will re-engage with a fresh perspective on everything.