James Bartholomew

Left without pleasures

I used to scorn them. Now I just feel sorry for the poor things

Left without pleasures
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At a party recently I started talking to a friendly, charming woman and we established early on that she was left-wing. We chatted about this and that and for some reason I asked her if she played golf.

‘Oh no,’ she replied. ‘As I’m left-wing, I am not allowed to play golf.’

I was taken aback. Here was a soul who would go to her grave without ever experiencing the thrill of watching her drive soar into the air and race more than 200 yards down the middle of a fairway. A feeling akin to pity brushed across my mind. Concerned, I asked if there was anything else she was not allowed to do.

‘I suppose I am not allowed to play bridge, either.’

That is not such a heavy blow, to my mind, but still, bridge is a game which I understand gives pleasant times and company to many millions. So this avenue to innocent pleasure was cut off, too.

Those of us on the right often feel a certain defensiveness when in contact with those of the opposite persuasion. We are accustomed to being attacked with self-righteous anger. We sometimes struggle to feel warmly towards those who are calling us selfish lapdogs of crony capitalism. However, perhaps we have had it all wrong. Instead of feeling bulldozed and insulted, maybe we should be offering left-wingers kindness and sympathy. They have to go without a whole range of pleasures. Golf and bridge are just the start. Left-wingers are the puritans of our age.

They are not allowed fine wines. They can have beer, since it is a working-class drink. They are surely also permitted a glass of Pinot Grigio from time to time. But champagne is risky. They don’t want to be called ‘champagne socialists’, do they? So it’s safer to stick to a modest prosecco. As for a glug of Château Lafite Rothschild 1996, it’s out of the question.

Left-wingers are human like the rest of us, so sometimes, when on the south coast or perhaps in Spain, they can’t help thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a second home here?’ But they must bravely quash such improper ideas. Second homes are not allowed either. Yes, I know Polly Toynbee has a villa in Tuscany — but it has caused her endless trouble. Every time she fulminates about the uncaring rich, some rotter goes and mentions her villa. The left finds her villa so embarrassing and uncomfortable that the first thing that comes up if you search for ‘Polly Toynbee Tuscany’ is a blog debating whether or not the infamous villa is an ‘urban myth’. It should surely be a ‘rural myth’, if anything, but we can be confident it is not a myth at all because her fellow Guardian columnist Zoe Williams has referred to the villa as ‘a matter of record’. Let’s put it this way: lefties can buy second homes if they want, but if they do, they need the hide of a Polly Toynbee.

Some pleasures are so far out of bounds to left-wingers that they hardly need mentioning: polo and fox-hunting. There will be no thrill of the chase across the frost-rimmed fields of wintry Sussex for them. Other activities are borderline, such as skiing. Skiing in a modest resort in Slovakia or Sweden is surely permissible. But no left-winger will ever experience the glorious spectacle of the horse-races on the frozen lake in St Moritz, where the champagne flows and the magnificent mountains look on benevolently — yet another reason to offer left-wingers gentle sympathy.

Do they have any pleasures at all, you may wonder? Yes, indeed they do. It is not all bleakness. They have bicycling. That is wholly allowed and approved. In fact it is so thoroughly approved that it verges on the compulsory. Jeremy Corbyn bicycles. Which reminds us of another of the pleasures of left-wingers: beard-growing. Both Marx and Lenin grew beards, so there can be no possible disapproval of it. They can indulge it to the rim.

Left-wingers are also allowed sex. In fact this is probably their standout pleasure. Sex is democratic and, of itself, costs nothing. The only difficulty arises when a left-winger has such a dreary lifestyle with respect to practically everything else that there is a difficulty finding another person to have sex with.

One of the difficulties of left-wingery is that it is a struggle against nature. There is a part of every human being that wants some fun. That is why the puritans of the 17th century were never going to keep control for ever. They were doomed from the moment they banned Christmas and plays. Similarly, you can’t keep down the lust for life that left-wingers want to obliterate. In Cuba, Fidel Castro banned golf. He ploughed up the courses to make way for schools. But you can’t keep a human urge down. One of Fidel Castro’s own sons, Antonio, has taken up golf and — this is a matter of record, too — he won second prize in the Copa Monte-cristo golf tournament in 2013. Well done, Antonio!

Golf was banned in the Soviet Union and Mao outlawed it in China in 1961. This is one of the less well-known reasons why communism failed in these countries — frankly it has received insufficient attention. Now golf is returning triumphantly to these countries. The number of golf courses in China tripled between 2005 and 2010, and that was despite a ban on golf-course construction during those years. You can’t keep human nature down. But that is exactly what those on the left attempt to do. They quell too many of our impulses towards fun and self-indulgence. The effect on the lefties themselves is not mere speculation.

The General Social Survey in the United States inquires into the political views of respondents and also into their levels of contentment. Year after year, in recession or boom, those on the left are found to be less happy than those on the right. Come on, friends! Put a consoling arm around a leftie. Offer one a quiet round at lovely Littlehampton golf course — and promise you won’t tell anybody.