They say that you should never discuss religion or politics with people, as it is tantamount to encouraging a monumental row. My husband studied political philosophy and as someone who grew up encouraged to speak about the news around the dinner table, then we do enjoy discussing current affairs and politics as a family. My son is nineteen and I have always encouraged him to vote. I am so proud of the fact that he takes a very keen interest in all candidates and parties, and does his research before finally deciding on who to vote for.
In just a few days’ time, we shall once again vote in a general election. I have wrestled for a while over who I should vote for, as I do not believe that any party or candidate represents fully what I believe in. However, women fought for the right to vote. Many lost their lives. If I didn’t exercise my right to vote. then I would not be honouring the sacrifices they made and so I shall definitely be voting. I enjoy the process of voting in the polling station. For me, it represents our democracy: a democracy in which people are free to make their own decision without fear of being condemned, dictated to or punished. Well, that is the ideal of what we should be as a democracy, but at the moment, I am saddened by what our democracy has become.
There are some politicians that I really don’t like. Dianne Abbot is one such example. The reason that I do not like her is not down to her appearance. It isn’t down to her family members. It isn’t down to anything else, apart from how she expresses her opinions on the television and radio. I do not know the private person. I can only comment on what she says regarding her beliefs and her actions. Yet, I am becoming increasingly disturbed by the memes and so-called jokes at her expense that are posted on social media and in the press. There was one which said, “Dianne Abbot is so stupid that she stared at a carton of apple juice for twelve hours because it said concentrate.” And another, “In a village inhabited by idiots, this woman would still be the village idiot.” I haven’t used these examples in an attempt to make people laugh. I am using them to show how base the political climate is becoming in this country, since we seem to think it is acceptable to use these so-called jokes. It is almost as if politicians are fair game and they invite this type of treatment because they choose to put themselves in the public eye. These jokes say more about the people who are making them, than the target of the joke. It is tantamount to saying that I am only going to vote for someone who looks, acts and behaves in the way that I like.
By all accounts disagree with someone. By all accounts criticise someone’s political views and arguments. But is it right to make personal remarks belittling someone and do it under the banner of political opinion? Would you go up to someone in real life and say these things? Why then, are some politicians treated in this way? Why has politics become so nasty and characterised by personal rather than political debate?
When I went to university, I loved the fact that I met so many people who came from different backgrounds and had opposite views to me. I loved political debate, and for much of my time at University I enjoyed discussing issues that seemed so important to me as a student. I went to University during the Thatcher years. Thatcher was a very divisive leader and many of her policies were against all that I believed in. However, having political debate meant that I was able to process my own views, hear the opinions and experience of others and thus go onto formulate my final adult beliefs. Many of my opinions are founded on a belief of tolerance and kindness. I may not adhere to a political party, but I certainly know what is right and what is wrong. I would never have been able to do this without being able to debate with others who had different opinions. That is why this current climate is so frightening.
On BBC Radio 4 this afternoon, I heard a news story relating how some people are receiving unsolicited private messages on Facebook, which were no more than a tirade of abuse. They were sent these for expressing their political opinions on a page. I have seen some equally concerning posts on Facebook from people who claim that if you don’t support X, Y or Z, then you must be the devil incarnate. Whatever happened to people being able to express their views without fear of recrimination? Whilst I admit that I find opinions which are racist, sexist and homophobic highly offensive, in these cases, taking on someone who has such bigoted views is not going to change their judgemental beliefs. There is a vast difference between someone having a different opinion and someone being narrow-minded and intolerant.
I have also started to wonder where the truth lies in this election. We have already discovered that the main parties lied about several key issues concerning the Brexit referendum and this leads me to conclude that we can no longer trust anything that is reported in the media. Politicians hurl accusations at each other so that we do not know what to believe and what is the truth. It has become like 1984 – where we are permanently in a state of paranoia. Is Big Brother feeding us what he wants us to hear in an effort to make us think we are free. In an election characterised by misinformation, what is the truth?
We only have to look at how the Leaders of the main political parties are portrayed in the media to see how much the truth is distorted to suit the agenda of each newspaper or television channel and influence our decisions. By this, I do not mean political satire, I mean abuse: targeting someone because of their appearance or private life. The Daily Mail has to be one of the worst newspapers for waging campaigns of harassment against people in the public eye. They adopt a self-righteous stance on just about every issue. They have destroyed many people’s careers overnight with their sensationalist muck raking. For this reason alone, you really cannot trust a word that the Daily Mail prints.
Therefore, we should be free to make our own decisions without fear of being abused, and we also need to look beyond what the media is silently telling us or influencing us to believe. Furthermore, we must ensure that we debate productively in order to hear different arguments. As the X Files used to say – the truth really is out there. It should be about the politics and ideologies, nothing more, nothing less. Let’s stop playing dirty. However, whatever you do on Thursday, please ensure that you vote. At least that is one truth that cannot be denied.