Putting the secateurs down

Sunday January 8, 2006

I find it very difficult to care about politics as I grow older. In my youth I was mildly socialist—it was a thing of the heart rather than the head. As my heart cooled and my head hardened I cast about to see if there was some other affiliation I could adopt, failed, and adopted the floating voter approach, casting my ballot in favour of the party that, in my view, would do the least harm to the country should it be elected to government. Other than that, I have done and continue to do my best to avoid the whole silly business.

So, today, when the leader of the third largest British political party—the Liberal Democrats—was forced to resign over his drinking problem, I was a litle sad for him and a touch angry with his colleagues for wielding the knives that got him out but, beyond that, not really interested at all.

Except. By forcing the issue they’ve disturbed the balance of power and brought about a situation where the next election may well be a two-horse race between Labour and Conservative once more, with the Liberal Democrats losing support all over the country, and that’s a situation that makes me uneasy, to the extent that I reach for the map of Europe and wonder idly about emigration.

For a while, then, I feel obliged to keep my head above the parapet and maintain a watch on politics at a point between elections when I ought to be able to leave them all to their own sordid affairs. I’ve no great love for Labour but I shudder at the thought of living under unbridled Conservativism once more. The Liberal Democrats, though far from being able to form a government, established a balance between the two main parties, keeping both of them from their excesses.

I resent having to waste time thinking about this. A decent, respectable, Englishman ought to be able to concentrate on growing roses in his retirement, putting the secateurs down only for a moment once every four or five years when required to cast his vote.



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