Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday, 12 June 2011

I'll never accept the label tribalist

I've had numerous debates over the last few years with people about the definition of a political tribalist and the fact that I do not think of myself as one of them. I have had counter arguments posed such as the mere fact that I go out knocking on doors and delivering leaflets for a particular political party (in my case the Lib Dems) by definition makes me tribal. I disagree with this quite strongly.

For me, tribalism is the sort of "my party right and wrong" attitude that I see from the more partisan political activists, perhaps epitomised by the sort of person who opposes a policy simply because it is from another party. I had a discussion last year with a Labour activist who claimed that there had never been a Liberal/Lib Dem policy that he had agreed with. Ever. To me that just seems utterly preposterous and completely lacking in credibility, especially given that the overlap between Liberal/Lib Dem and Labour over the years must have meant in the past that plenty of those policies must have essentially also been Labour policies at various points. But that's the sort of thing I am talking about.

I saw another example yesterday in this piece from Luke Akehurst on Labourlist. At one point in the post he writes:

The worst day and the worst decisions of the Blair and Brown years would be better to live through again than the best day of the mob running Britain now.

That to me shows the mindset of a tribalist and one that I just cannot empathise with. Luke is saying that the day that David Kelly committed suicide following being named by a "outing" strategy devised by the Labour Party media machine is a better day to live through than the day David Cameron unequivocally and with widely praised Statesmanship accepted the findings of the Bloody Sunday inquiry in full. He is also saying that the day the records of 25 million people went missing from the Child Benefits system is a better day than when nearly 1 million of the lowest earning workers in the country were taken out of tax altogether.

I could go on. For me, that sort of thinking does not add up. Of course I accept that Luke thinks overall the 13 years of Labour government were better than the last year of the coalition. But to think every single individual day of the years running from 2nd May 1997 through to 11th May 2010 are all better than any of the days since then is what I define as tribalism. It's the sort of thing that in a speech from the podium at Labour conference would get great cheers but that does not stand up to scrutiny.

And I would say this about any government's record against any other. I grew up in a family that had very strong views about Margaret Thatcher and were against much of what she stood for but the day that the Falkland Islands were liberated from Argentine occupation would be high up there in the best days for this country of the last 30 years. And despite the fact that I have spent the last few years campaigning for the Lib Dems and against the Labour Party I would highlight the decisions to give the Bank of England control over interest rates and the introduction of the minimum wage two of the best decisions any government has ever made.

Tribalists exist in all parties. Sometimes they are interesting to listen to even putting aside the somewhat hyperbolic tendencies. Sometimes they bore the pants off me and I stop listening.

But I will never consider myself one of them.

1 comment:

Neil Harding said...

Luke is a tribalist, but not one of the worst in the Labour party. Saying that, in defence of Luke, a day contains many government actions and consequences. Suicides, crime, inequality, cuts, etc are advancing fast EVERY day under this government even when they might do a few good things. And to give Brian Souter a knighthood is simply unforgiveable on any day.