Sunday, January 25, 2015

Once was enough. (Why I never voted Conservative again.)

I was brought up in a conservative household, in that my Mother was Conservative and my Father was quiet - he was actually an active liberal, then he was a reluctant LibDem, but not overtly at home. Politics was never mentioned unless it was by my Mother , saying something to the television about the Labour bloke who was on at the time. The socialist government's policies had destroyed her father's building firm in the 1970s - so she still hates them all.

My Mother's influence also explains why I was never a Labour man, even though I failed at school and started working at 17. I joined the Post Office, the telecoms section - soon to be called BT, but then mostly still called the GPO - at least that's what the crockery said in the staff canteens. It was not the job I wanted. I was still too young to join the BBC and my Father in television engineering production, although I tried. I turned up for work at the 'Post Office' in my Harris Tweed jacket and was instantly ostracised. They thought I was a management spy - hardly acting incognito - but, I was obviously different, especially when I opened my mouth. I also had a disturbing tendency to read 'Soviet Weekly' as it had the only coverage I could find of the Soviet space programme. I was not well suited for the job.

I got on well though, I could do it, twisting wires together, warming my feet in a 'foot box' under a red and white striped workman's tent with a blowtorch - melting my socks in winter. The men I worked with, they were all male, continually tested me - often in groups - asking questions about who the heck I was and what on earth was I doing with them. I answered as honestly as I could - and got on very well indeed with everyone - until I started working in the Post Office Tower. There the staff felt that I was a threat and treated me somewhat badly. I did not get on well there, but I did get old enough to enter the BBC - so I did.

Oddly, the Beeb was worse. People never asked me who I was at all, never bothered to talk to or interact with me in any way other than to do with the job at hand. Not nice. Depressing - far more off-putting than the initial open hostility at the Post Office. That, I could and did address. The silent treatment gave me nothing and no one to work with.

This was the class system at work, not that I realised it at the time. Politics went with class then, so I sort of fell in to voting Conservative. She was a nice lady and it would be a good thing to have a woman prime minister we all thought, so I voted Conservative. "Rounding up rather than rounding down' was my thinking. Better to raise everyone as high as possible than lower everyone to the same level - that was my view of the difference between the 'two' parties.

This was the time of the first economic depression of my experience. At the time I thought I was unaffected by it, I had my own home and a job for life, what else was there, I was even married. But, every time I watched TV ( which was basically my job ) I saw a world different from what I had been told it was. I saw something else in the alternative comedy shows - humour - intelligence , hope for change, anger at inequality, repression, the 'status quo' ( who I never thought much of, I'm more of an Orchestral chap ). I began to feel uneasy. All the jokes were against 'my' party. Mrs T's voice had got deeper and more strident ( after her vocal training I later learned ). I didn't like her any more, and I did like Not the Nine O'clock News - a lot. I even worked on it from time to time. I even thought up a sketch and got it accepted by the show - which was then cancelled.

I had a nagging feeling of being wrong about things, of being a problem to the world rather than living in it. This was uncomfortable. Then, I realised what the problem was - I was part of it - being me, I could change me, or at least my view of the world. As it turned out, I didn't change much at all. The only thing I did differently was put a cross in another place - at least to start with. I felt so much better being on the right side of everything - right as in correct. I had no need to continually find self justification for an increasing difficult to support world view that I had inherited from my Tory past. I in no way changed what I thought and felt about people and life in general, I just realised that the party I had voted for was not supportive of anything I wanted to be a part of. I did not and do not reject the levelling up rather than down argument I started out with, I just noticed that the policies I had supported in no way were aimed at supporting that goal. I looked around for something that did what it said both on it's tin and in my heart - and I found the Green Party.

There was a TV audience / Vox pops thing back then. Julian Pettifer was the host. John Sergeant, the then BBC Chief political correspondent was the chief guest  - I was also there, at the back, in long hair and sandals (probably) after having stood in the recent General Election. The first half of the show went off smoothly, but the second half got taken over by some invited audience member who basically talked a lot and incited loud arguments and uncontrolled rowdiness. It was clear to me that the second half of the show was a write-off, and it was redone. On take Two, I was asked to pose the question I had come to deliver "How long will it take for the News Media to treat the Green Party in the same way as the Conservatives and Labour parties ?" - well, that was the gist of it. Possibly to stop a recurrence of the uproar in take one, John Sergeant took the rest of the show up in a very lengthy answer. basically he said -'60 years, that's how long it took the Labour Party to reach government after it's inception. Well, that was over a quarter of a century ago now and the Greens had been going for twenty years or so already by then. On his reckoning, we shall be in power during the government after this next one.

I think we can do better than that.

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