“Look at earth from outer space…everyone must find a place…”
Perhaps everyone’s spiritual home should be in the dying of summer.
We get our hopes up, they’re our summertime hopes. Those hopes that say that everything matters, and that the world can be better, and it is great now anyway, and that you are making a difference.
Somehow, though, they always die a little – at least for another year. We go through summertime after summertime, skipping from one to the next, each one a new home, a new place to build our dreams around.
My summertimes started with a nugget of truth – action is better than inaction. It may have been drawn from a dancing, uninhibited rejoicing at the fall of Apartheid, or the simple awareness of well-meaning family. It may have been that morning in 1992 when everyone’s hopes and dreams died for another five years. I don’t know.
Labour, but middle-class with it, my nearest influences have always provoked – since I was old enough to feel it – a sense of not-quite. The sight of a sweaty local party candidate emerging from my sister’s bedroom, the canvassing we were roped into. Local politics is all a little not-quite.
But the final moment of rejoicing in 1997 came too soon for me. Born five years earlier, and I might be defending New Labour as we speak. But for those of us whose first global moment was 9/11 and its aftermath, it will always be hard to vote for them.
Then – the choice…over time. Apathy (popular), alternative (Lib Dem), anarchy (the Bristol scene), agnostic about party politics but wanting to influence decision makers (SPEAK) or altruism (Green). There’s a bit of all these in me. There’s a bit of all these, I would wager, in all of us.
But the Liberal Democrats took my brain. Question Time after Question Time I valued their approach, their stances, if not always their style. Charles Kennedy’s one-liners and chat-show appearances, Ming Campbell’s grounded-but-cheery reason, Simon Hughes’ slightly smarmy but pointed rebukes and Julia Goldsworthy’s normality. But when Charles turned to Ming, they lost something. And when Ming turned to Nick, they sort of gained it again, only for us to belatedly realise that we’d traded snakeoil for wolftickets. Bring back Charles, and then enter coalition discussions, we now think.
It falls to me to explain that, politically, I believe in democracy above all things. The airing of views, the discussion, the detail, and the dialectic is all important. No matter how flawed our party political and parliamentary system is (and it is – say yes to AV, as a babystep), I believe that we should revolutionise it not through tearing it down and criticising it, but from taking a positive stance and bargaining on flawed human beings’ capability to make the debate positive, and get legislation that is life-giving and life-changing and respectful of the dignity of people. That’s the big idea.
So, if our spiritual home is in the dying of summer, our political home should be in those first rays of sunlight on a clear, June morning – where we attest that truth alone suffices, that the positive step is the way ahead, that our realpolitik must move into its own summer, a summer that is always dying, and an endless one at that.
“Summer is dying, let’s go outside…”