Quite often when I deliver myself of an opinion to a friend or colleague, the reply will come back: ‘Are you out of your mind? I think that is sectionable under the Mental Health Act.’ In fact, I get that kind of reaction rather more often than, ‘Oh, what a wise and sensible idea, Rod, I commend your acuity.’
There is nothing I say, however, which provokes such fervid and splenetic derision, and the subsequent arrival of pacifying nurses, as when I tell people that I intend to vote Labour at the forthcoming general election. When I tell people that, they look at me the way my dog does when I tell her that it is not right to kill cats. It is something quite beyond the parameters of understanding, of comprehension. ‘But you hate them,’ people reply, shaking their heads, and up to a point I have to agree. I do hate them, much of them, or much of what they have become.
The proposition appears genuinely certifiable when I add that I do not actually want Labour to win the election, or at least not in the manner which they are most likely to ‘win’ — i.e., in alliance with the hounds of hell from the Lib Dems and the terrifying, ginger, grasping Picts. In fact, I would rather like Labour to suffer the sort of wipeout in the north of England which the SNP seem well on course to deliver in Scotland (and for similar reasons). That will not happen at this election, but it will assuredly happen at some election not far down the line, so hopelessly estranged has Labour become from the people it was set up to support. It is now the party of middle-class London liberals, its enormous lead in the capital compelling evidence of this.
The decision to vote Labour appears even more doolally when you consider the extent to which I despise much of the party’s mindset and, indeed, its policies. I do not for a nanosecond believe in the leadership’s — uh — commitment to restraining immigration, which is one of my keystone issues. It was, of course, Labour which let them all in originally and the party has been weaselly and evasive on what it might do to address the matter. Yes, I agree with raising the minimum wage and enforcing the matter, but that will not by itself end the deluge, a deluge which has hurt the very poorest in our country and kept wages criminally low.
I loathe Labour’s rainbow identity politics — keep that for London, if you must — and have never thought terribly highly of multiculturalism. Plenty of northern Labour MPs have disowned this poisonously divisive concept, but the southern leadership clings to it as an article of faith. I dislike its reflexive, bovine, political correctness, its willingness to clamber into a redoubt of statism and bureaucracy and hunker down behind the barriers of the NHS.
I do not like its bien-pensant middle-class refusal to distinguish between the deserving poor and the un-deserving poor — a distinction which is certainly clear in the minds of the working-class people I know, and always has been. Nor indeed its continued affection for education policies which have ruined the lives of two generations of working-class children and are the reason why Labour ministers try like hell to get their kids into private schools or the most old-fashioned, selective state schools that they can find. And I don’t like the party’s sniffy disdain for Britain, for its traditions and its heritage and its history.
Oh, and I don’t think too highly of the party leader. I don’t doubt his care and concern. I doubt his connection to the people his party is supposed to represent.
So what’s left, you might well be asking right now. Good question. Obviously, I want a political party which is economically well to the left and socially conservative. ‘Try Hizb ut-Tahrir, then. Anything but Miliband’s lot,’ you might venture. Well OK, maybe not quite that socially conservative. I don’t want people stoned to death. Or at least there are some people I would quite like to see stoned to death, but only when I’m in a drunken rage and Newsnight is on TV. It’s not something I would dignify in policy terms.
You might also hazard that the party for which I intend to vote last existed in about 1951, if at all (although I have plenty of respect and affection for both the Wilson governments and even Jim Callaghan’s brief hurrah) and that I am voting — perhaps tribally — for something which no longer has any relevance today. There is some truth in that. And I have been sorely tempted by Ukip — if only because of its opportunistic policies on immigration and its rather laudable refusal to adopt politically correct language. But there is almost nothing else within Ukip for me, even if the party does have the most likeable of leaders.
The single issue which cleaves me to Labour, even this Labour, is social division. The gap between the rich and the poor has grown almost exponentially and Labour is the only party with the instinct, or predilection, to address that problem. And the gap between London and the rest of the country widens by the year too, to the point that we are now effectively two countries: an affluent city-state and a hinterland which, in places, teeters on the edge of the third world.
The smaller the differences between rich and poor, the better a country tends to perform — and I would direct your attention to Scandinavia for evidence of that.
On both of those issues — social and geographical divisions within the UK — I have the faint conviction that Labour is more likely than the others to put things right. You may reckon this to be a very thinnish premise, but I would still reply: ‘Vote Labour. You know it makes sense.’