Hugo Rifkind Hugo Rifkind

Help! I’ve started to care about politics

Is this a symptom of too much time on Twitter, or just of middle age?

Once upon a time, I didn’t really care about politics. Not viscerally. Growing up in a political family, I suppose, you go one of two ways. You know those kids you’ll sometimes see being paraded around by political parents in facepaint and rosettes, waving from shoulders as though born into a cult? I wasn’t like that. More the opposite. Politics was always nearby, and sometimes even interesting, but it was nothing to do with me. Devotees often made me think of those people who support a football team and refer to it as ‘we’. Get over yourself, I always thought. You’re just a spectator.

If you wanted to detect a degree of entitlement in this, I suppose you’d be entitled to. Perhaps it’s a bit like that old German joke about the child who is mute until he is five, to the extent that his parents wonder if he’s been hit on the head. You know the one? Over dinner one night, quite suddenly, he says ‘This soup is tepid’ in crystal clear Hochdeutsche, and his astonished mother asks him why he has never spoken before. ‘Because until now,’ shrugs the boy, ‘everything was satisfactory.’

I daresay that was me until really quite recently. I was interested in politics, sure. I’d write about it, and not always with flippancy. But I didn’t care. I didn’t have to. With the exception of the odd blip, such as the Iraq War, everything was satisfactory.

It isn’t any more. Anything but. Looking back, the equal marriage debate should have been a sign. I really bought into that one. Really cared. Really thought I had a role to play. Maybe I even did. Stonewall, the lobbying charity, gave me an award, not to brag, and I have rarely been more delighted.

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