As I write this the morning news is alive with discussion about the date of a possible, even likely, General Election. Politicians and members of various political parties have been preparing, in one way or another, for this event for some time now, but, speaking as the Green Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for West Dorset, such talk raises my levels of excitement and anticipation no end. But before the actual political debates start, before I step onto various platforms with the candidates from the other parties, before I start canvassing in the streets or at front doors, I would like to make an open public request to these other candidates – indeed to all the good citizens of West Dorset: Could we please, please try and do this without insulting anyone, without using inflammatory language, and without causing any harm to our wonderful local communities!
As many of you may know, I run the Bridport Philosophy in Pubs group. We don’t have many rules, but one of the few we do have, and which everyone follows because it has proved to be better for the group, is that we only criticise or challenge other people’s ideas, not them as person. We do our level best to not make our discussions personal. I have found that such an approach to debate actually facilitates people reviewing and possibly changing their own thinking to a far greater extent than personal attacks. If group members do not feel personally under attack they do not feel the need to defend themselves – and such freedom loosens the grip their ideas have on who they think they are. So, my fellow candidates, could we please try the same approach on the various hustings that we will find ourselves on together?
Could we also be very careful as to the language we use in general. A lot of anger has been stirred up and created since the EU referendum. We need to start calming things down before events get out of hand and mob violence breaks out. It has happened before (I am thinking particularly of the ‘Black Shirt’ rallies in the 1930’s) and could easily happen again. As candidates running for office we have a responsibility to behave and speak in such a way that shows respect for all potential voters, for all the inhabitants of West Dorset. One of the most chilling news stories that I have seen for some time has just been brought to my attention: The Daily Mirror is reporting that a crowdfunding page has been set up to pay for the murder of the business woman and Remain campaigner Gina Miller. Do we really want to live in a society where people’s lives are taken for simply having a different point of view, for having the audacity to believe in something different? Would this be any different from living under the fascist dictatorships of Mussolini or Hitler?
And lastly, could I please extend this plea to the people of West Dorset. I know that many of you are very frustrated with the state of politics in this country at the moment. I don’t blame you. I am deeply frustrated myself. But I genuinely believe that no politician intended it to be like this. I do not have the experience of many other politicians, but from my personal experience of working with politicians from other political parties, many of whom I passionately disagree with, I am convinced that the vast majority are acting for the very best of reasons. Whilst I am sure that the odd exception can be found to this, I really believe that the vast majority of people and politicians are not bad people, in fact quite the opposite. They may have a different understanding of what ‘the good’ is than I do, but they are sincere in their attempts to bring it about. The way forward is to have an open and honest debate about what ‘the good’ is that we want to create, not to threaten and intimidate anyone whose vision of that good differs from our own.