Lovely, lovely grudges

I hold many grudges. Truly, I do. There’s the grudge that I hold from way back in infant school, where a teacher falsely accused me of the crime of walking on the newly planted flower beds. She moved to South Africa a few weeks after the incident. (The incident that didn’t happen, except in her mind, I hasten to add). I still held onto that grudge even as she was weeping her goodbyes at a school assembly. And guess what? I started to hold a grudge against South Africa – just because they were letting her move there. I haven’t revisited that particular grudge recently, but I suspect that it’s still there, fueled by their many recent cricketing victories over England.

I hold grudges against people who I’ve never met and don’t know. For example, there’s the one that I hold against the English O level examiner who had the temerity to ‘only’ award me a grade B. The aftermath caused me immense pain, both at school and at home. The confidence I lost in my academic abilities on that fateful winter morning as I was handed the results slip has taken me the best part of a lifetime to recover from. Well, not really, but I’m not going to let a nebulous concept like “truth” get in the way of me and my grudges.

However important these issues may have seemed to me at the time, neither could be said to have had any lasting impact on my objective well-being. Yet the hair still stands up on my neck when I think about them and the blood courses furiously in my veins.

So just imagine for a moment the strength of the grudge I hold for the dissembling politicians who lied and conned the country into supporting a vote to leave the EU. It’s almost as strong as the one that I now hold for the politicians who half-heartedly supported remaining, but who are now doing everything in their power to make sure that we leave on any terms – good or bad. However, I definitely don’t hold a grudge towards the growing number of leave voters who feel (rightly) that they were duped by these folk. I’m looking forward to seeing them punish this “elite” at the ballot box for many years to come as their lies are exposed.

But perhaps these feelings about the liars for leave aren’t really grudges. For me, a grudge that I can brood over and milk for years has to be completely irrational and relate to circumstances that I can do nothing about. A bit like the feud in Romeo and Juliet between the Montague and Capulet families perhaps. That’s a proper, irrational grudge that none of the protagonists understand the origins of or can fix unilaterally. But, I am, at last, starting to do something positive in politics again, to try to change things. It’s been a few leaflets here and there in 2016, but now the MSc is out-of-the-way and provided my health holds out, I hereby resolve to become rather more active in 2017.

 

This rant was brought to you courtesy of the 105th Post 40 Bloggers writing prompt. Please don’t hold it against them.

Choosing your tribe – them and us

“In Ireland you must choose your tribe. Reason has nothing to do with it.” 

 

So wrote J.G. Farrell in his 1970 novel Troubles. While much of what has happened politically in 2016 has felt both tribal and irrational to me, psychology suggests that we don’t even need big issues to persuade us to pick our tribe. Developed at much the same time that Farrell published his novel, Henri Tajfel’s minimal group experiments show how easy – how frighteningly easy – it is for us to do this.

Minimal groups can be formed using arbitrary criteria.  A coin toss can be used to divide people randomly into two groups. A simple task, such as distributing small amounts of money, results in people favouring members of their own group. This happens even when there is no objective difference between group members and the distribution is performed anonymously.

This result led Tajfel with others including John Turner, to develop Social Identity Theory (SIT). SIT can be used as a way of explaining the minimal group results, but more importantly, can perhaps shed light on what happens in everyday life outside of laboratory experiments.

SIT argues that we categorise ourselves and others into different groups. A process of social identification occurs over time, where we decide which groups we identify with. Our decisions on group membership are influenced by others already in a particular group whose attitudes and beliefs we wish to emulate. Finally, our self-esteem is boosted by positive comparisons of our own group against others. It can also be damaged if other groups are held in higher regard by society than ours.

The need to pick our tribe, regardless of how rational or irrational that choice may seem to others, would therefore seem to be an inbuilt characteristic of humanity. Which of the tribes that we belong to is most important to us at any point in time depends on how salient the social identity it embodies becomes. If that identity feels threatened, then we often cling to it even harder.

It would seem to me that the events of the last week demonstrate that the most salient political identity in the UK at the moment is how pro-EU (or anti-EU) we feel. How else would you explain the truly wonderful result for Sarah Olney in the Richmond Park by-election if that was not the case? How else would you explain the willingness of many people to work across traditional party political divides to make sure that we don’t drive our economy off a cliff? Or how else would you explain a large slice of the electorate still voting for the ‘independent’ ex-incumbent anyway?

Long may the country’s new-found passion for the EU continue. I have chosen my tribe and for the first time in some years, I feel rather good about being a member.

My response to the recent Post40Bloggers writing prompt number 104: “Them and Us“.

I believe that the devil is ready to repent

I haven’t really felt like writing much about politics since June 24th gave a narrow, but important victory to those who believe our future is better outside of the European Union. Well, either that, or they wanted to give the mythical ‘liberal elite’ a good kicking. There’s increasing evidence to suggest that some who voted to leave regret their decision. I’m pleased that some people feel like that, but as time travel is impractical, regrets without action seem rather pointless. However, the general increase in support for the Liberal Democrats (in real polls rather than opinion polls, fortunately) continues and membership numbers appear to be healthy too. I suspect that some of those who now regret their decision on June 23rd and want to move beyond such feelings and into constructive action have joined the party – welcome!

And then November 9th arrived. After the initial shock I felt, I’ve been avoiding the news like the plague. Classic fm (at least, for 55 minutes every hour) has got a new devotee. News programmes are too depressing, particularly when they endlessly turn to Farage and others of his ilk for their opinions. I’m genuinely concerned for my many colleagues, friends and acquaintances in the US who have already been affected by Trump’s rhetoric. I hope his success doesn’t inspire his followers to turn hateful words into hateful actions(*). Like Brexit, the narrowness of Trump’s victory makes it all the more frustrating for those of us who believe that misogyny, racism, homophobia and xenophobia have no place in this world.

But that’s where the similarities in the triumph of the new right on both sides of the Atlantic stop. The American electorate can throw Trump out in 2020 (or chose to keep him on until 2024 of course) – assuming that he doesn’t do something really stupid and dangerous in the meantime. Indeed, the one piece of news I did watch this morning was Christopher Meyer, a former UK ambassador to the US, talking about how the UK government should approach a Trump presidency. He was quite clear about the importance of our political leaders and diplomats ensuring that they get to know the Trump camp really well now, without delay. May has been rather slow off the mark with a call due sometime today, 10th in the queue, well behind other world leaders. The UK needs to retain as much influence with the US as possible to dissuade him from turning what I hope was campaign bombast into, well, bombs.

The problem with Brexit is that it is very likely to be permanent. Once we’re out of the EU, it will become impossible to return with anything like as good a deal (no contributions rebate, for example) as we have now. That’s assuming that the rest of the EU would have us back on any terms, anyway. But return we will want to. The loss of freedom of movement and the resulting economic decline will eventually be too much for us all.

Since the US election results came in, I’ve been humming the tune to ‘I believe’. This song featured on an episode of Not the Nine O’Clock News some 37 years ago, after the election of Ronald Reagan. If you’ve not heard it before, the YouTube link is below. Some of the references are a little out of date – “I believe that JR really loves Sue Ellen” may not mean much to some, but the sentiments of the song still hold. Especially if you substitute Ronald Reagan for Donald Trump in the last line.

I’m proud to be a citizen of Britain, Europe and the world. These things were never contradictory and they never will be. Patriotism is not the same as petty nationalism. I’m convinced that finding ways to win the arguments for Liberalism with good grace and humour is the best way to defeat the demagogues.

 

(*) The discursive psychologist inside me knows that words accomplish social action, and so such distinctions are moot.

10,000 steps a day – day 27 – Allestree by-election

Today’s steps were easily achieved as this evening I went out leafleting on behalf of the excellent Liberal Democrat by-election candidate for Allestree, Deena Smith.

Allestree by-electionFor those of you that don’t follow Derby politics closely, the vacancy was caused by the Conservative councillor elected in May being jailed for two months for providing a false address. I think the people of Allestree deserve better than to have their votes taken for granted by the Tory party. The by-election is on Thursday and I hope that the recent success elsewhere in Derbyshire is a good omen in what has been considered a safe Conservative ward.

If you’ve never delivered leaflets before, this is what the activity looks like to a Fitbit tracker.

Delivery WalkI was quite pleased that I didn’t have to backtrack too many times.

 

There are just three days left in my September walk all over cancer, but there’s still time to sponsor me. My donations page is here. Thank you!

Pauline Latham MP was seduced by Leave’s propaganda

Pauline Latham, my MP in Mid Derbyshire, wrote an article for the Derby Telegraph just a few hours before the EU referendum. In it she finally came out for Leave, stating that she’d carefully studied the pros and cons of membership. However, it would appear that even a professional was seduced by Leave’s propaganda, which if nothing else shows why no-one should blame the electorate for coming to their decision based on the series of half-truths they spread. Some of these, including the claim that the EU has never signed off their accounts, are naturally repeated in her article.

Leaving the half-truths aside, it’s the conclusions she makes that call her judgement into question most. Here’s an example:

One of the strongest arguments for remaining in the EU is that it provides economic security and offers the UK stability and a strong position in the world as part of a powerful trading and diplomatic bloc.

 

Ultimately I think such arguments undersell the strong position of the UK in the world and the clear power and potential we have to remain in this position. With more heat than light being generated in the debate about our place in the EU has everyone forgotten that 170 countries exist outside it? To say we cannot succeed on our own is wrong.

I’m not sure that any sane person would suggest that the run on the pound, the turmoil in the stock markets, the flight of capital from the UK economy and the downgrading of our credit rating that has resulted since Thursday is success. Maybe she’s hoping that things will get better? But hope is not a strategy.

She also claimed that one of the reasons for leaving would be to take back control over immigration. Her fellow Leave campaigners have been furiously rowing back from that assertion of course, and I wonder if she had realised that residual migration in Derby (of which her constituency covers part) meant that the population declined by 200 in 2013/14?

I’ve met a lot of shell-shocked people in Oakwood and around the city since the result was announced. People are naturally concerned about their prospects, pensions and livelihoods.

Now that Leave have won the debate, I think she owes it to her constituents to explain in clear terms what the plan is to restore prosperity. If she is unable to do that then she should apologise now and make way for someone who can.

Two thoughts following the referendum result – and what to do next

This is a quickly written post as I really need to get on with my dissertation today. However, here are two thoughts about what not to do, and what to do following the EU referendum ‘leave’ result.

First – the what not to do. Don’t sign the petition arguing for a second referendum on the same question immediately. We may not like the result (that’s possibly the biggest understatement I’ve ever made), but a second referendum isn’t the answer. At best it would be a sticking plaster that fails to address the underlying causes of the dissatisfaction that many people feel about their situation. At worst, it looks like sour grapes. In fact, I’m in full agreement with the good Lord Bonkers (a.k.a. Jonathan Calder) on this – referendums on anything are a really bad idea in a parliamentary democracy. Read his piece published before the results were known to understand why.

Secondly – the what to do. With the Conservative and Labour parties ripping apart at the seams, an early General Election seems like a real possibility, even with the fixed-term parliaments act in place. If you think that the UK should remain in (or rejoin) the EU, I hope that you’ll join the Liberal Democrats. Come and work with us to create an optimistic, liberal and positive vision for the future, that addresses the underlying problems in our country with real solutions, not just cheap slogans.

Bloggers and friends for Remain

I’m all out of inspiration at the moment. It’s been sucked into a black hole known as my dissertation and hopefully will reappear at some point after September. But it is really important to vote – and vote Remain on Thursday. So in lieu of me being able to write something sensible about the referendum, can I heartily recommend these two posts written by fellow bloggers – and friends – instead.

I want my country back – fellow post40blogger Tattooed Mummy writes about her reasons for voting Remain and what she hopes the UK can regain:

I want my friendly country back, the one that can laugh at itself when we meet a foreigner who speaks perfect English while we wallow in shouting and pointing. I want the country back, the one that welcomes the lost and the scared.

Europe, you’ve got my vote – written by a good friend of our family (often referred to as our third daughter).

… in spite of arguments about trade and economy, it needs to be said that it is okay to reason from an ethical position. I support the remain campaign because the EU keeps us together in spite of our differences; it says that we stand together instead of standing apart.

However you come to your decision, I hope that you’ll vote Remain too. Whether you believe the reason to vote Remain is the peace we have enjoyed in Europe since the end of the second world war, the benefits of trading in a single market, EU environmental protections, support for workers’ rights, the freedom to travel within the EU without visas, carnets and other red tape while retaining control of our borders, the security provided by working together to defeat criminals and terrorists, or something else, we have a lot to lose if we fail to vote Remain this Thursday.

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