What on earth is this left-right political stuff? It's not policy, otherwise the Liberals wouldn't see themselves as left. And why do they get so upset when people disagree with them?
I was always someone trying to make things work. Ideas had to be tested. Facts were sacrosanct. But were they really true? All the time? In every circumstance? Or did they depend on something I hadn't thought of? I've never been good at being certain. A little ditherer – holding back until someone else starts the ball rolling.
However, one thing I did understand was that the 1960s Trade Unions in Birmingham were heedless of the consequences when they downed-tools in wild-cat strikes.The father of my friend, Carole,worked night shifts at the Longbridge car factory and loved to regale us 14 year-old girls with tales of the goings on at work – playing cards during working hours while saving the actual work to do during overtime – at time and a third. Meanwhile, I looked around the council house with all it's luxurious fittings, kitchen equipment and electrical goods. They were supposed to be poor people, with their cheap council rents. While my Dad, a Legal Clerk working for the council, was supposed to be better off. But there we were, buying a record player 2nd hand. No car, no fridge, no washing machine, and a tiny old TV. Meanwhile, another car company was going bust, and the Government asked the Longbridge owners, BMC, to look after them as well. I didn't for a minute believe Trade Unions were interested in anything apart from their own members getting the better of everyone else.
By the time I went off to university, I knew I was on the right of politics. So why, you may ask, did I choose to go to the most Left-Wing, controversial university in the land? It was because they had a Mathematical-Physics course and my English teacher had neglected to teach me how to pass the English Lit exam, which prevented me from going to Cambridge. How was I to know my understanding of Jane Eyre was "unusual"? And that I wasn't supposed to sympathise with Shylock? I loved his speech "Prick me, do I not bleed". That's how I used to feel an awful lot of the time.
I was at Sussex University when I had another political lesson after Enoch Powell's "Rivers of Blood" speech. One day, I joined a gaggle of girls pouring over the Sunday paper. I'm the sort of person that notices all the bits of "one of my constituents said" and "a little old lady told me". As they read from the paper, I was saying "I've heard tales like that". Of course, these days I know that gossip is about what people are afraid of, not what's actually been done. I'm not sure I knew that then. Nevertheless, I dived in, trying to explain why, when non-white people moved into the street, it quickley became all non-white.
"It's 'cos people can't stand sleeping on curry-smelling sheets", I'd venture. With no washing machines nor dryers everyone's sheets were drying outside and most of us had never smelt curry before. I knew a lady who said it made her feel sick. Or, "the West Indian lads have parties all night keeping people awake". Or "Some of them have never lived in brick houses before and do things like knocking down a weight-bearing wall" – this had happened to a sweet old lady down the road from my school. The result was that I was told I was disgustingly prejudiced. But I knew that I treated people of all different skin colours exactly the same because I was close friends with Indian and Jamaican girls. It was how folk behaved, that counted with me. Just as they say about marriages, it's the little things that make or break.
Whereas the other girls hadn't met any non-whites at all. Just the one Arab prince at University that they were warning all our friends against, because he reckoned only slags wore mini-skirts. So when I returned after the next vacation, I brought pictures of my friends back to Sussex and pointed to my best friend, Pauline. She used to proudly proclaim that she had 12 different nationalities in her; and looked mainly Indian, with a broad nose. Nobody believed me.
That taught me that prejudiced, ignorant people don't believe the truth when they hear it. And there's nothing you can do about it. Which, of course, makes me even more reticent than I naturally am.
When I got to voting age, I thought about the issues and what may or may not work. By this time, we'd had Harold Wilson and his Labour Party in office for a while with Trade Unions joining him at Number 10 for sandwiches and tea. Still disliking Trade Unions, and being deeply unimpressed by the Labour Government, I didn't have a choice of who to vote for. There was no point in voting for the Liberals with their tiny share of the vote. I did want my vote to count. Everytime I looked at issues, I thought the Labour plans were more likely to make matters worse than better. There were also quite a lot of unpleasant, agressive, shouty, Trade Unionists in the Labour Party whom I was suspicious of. At University I'd gleaned that Left politics were based on Marxism, Maoism or Trotsky. And that they have a weird idea of human nature - you'd never think we were the result of an evolutionary battle; for example, evolutionists postulate that altruism is an emergent trait from the time when humans lived in families and tribes. And is not something that members intentionally set out to do.
I prefer freedom and individuality – as far as possible. That's probably because I don't fit into standard models (and nor did Jane Eyre – although Oxford's Literature guru, F.R.Leavis, couldn't see that).
Why do so many people on the Left talk of "Progressive Policies"? What are they progressing to? They never tell us. They seem to be assuming that either you know, or you won't want to go there. They're not open and honest.
They've also been very clever at making it seem that only the Left care, and only Conservative are oppressive autocrats. Yet, I always keep in mind that Hitler started as a Socialist, and probably died one, too. Stalin was on the Left. As was the Russia we had a Cold War with. And also China and Pol Pot in Cambodia. Lots of nasty, repressive governments there – nothing to be proud of. Thinking of modern socialist governments, I note that Chavez in oil-rich Venuzuela bequeathed a bitterly divided people in a bankrupt country.
Yet there are many people who think "I care, so I have to vote on the Left". Some of them even believe every caring, thinking person would vote Left. Which just has me gob-smacked. Why are expensive, sub-standard, government-run institutions worth having?
However, I've often had problems with their individual attitudes. I remember going for a few days walking with Holiday Fellowship where I was dragooned into joining their evening games – despite having settled myself down with a book, sipping a gin & tonic. After I'd won the 1st 2 games, they started calling me names to my face. They'd wanted to give themselves a nice warm feeling of inclusiveness, without actually doing it!
I didn't learn from this, of course. Ever hopeful, I went to Minorca with Ramblers Holidays. On the very first walk, a retired GP struck up a conversation about politics and exclaimed "Why don't you think for yourself instead of copying your parents?" The patronising little man knew nothing of me, except that I was a woman in her 30s holidaying alone. His assumptions are astounding!
The papers are full of similar incidents in public life. For example, two items from today's paper, 4th December 2015, the day after MPs voted to bomb ISIL positions in Syria:-
· Firstly, a letter from several charity CEOs saying "The British military must minimise civilian casualties and set the standard for investigating any that are caused by British action." What are they talking about? Haven't they noticed this has been British policy for many years? In fact, the forces have recently completed yet another bout of learning lessons from previous wars. These CEOs should concentrate on improving their own activities instead of wasting charity money on grandstanding their caring credentials; with the side-effect of running down their own country. After all, huge amounts of money have been spent on Africa with almost nothing to show for it. Anyway, we, the public, don't believe in their kindness and generosity because they earn far more money than they need.
· Secondly, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Leader, pacifist who's anything but peaceful. He prompts his followers to bully, intimidate and threaten fellow Labour MPs who disagree with him; instead of being open and honest by changing Party policy. But then, he's incapable of doing hard work the way that Tony Blair did, in recinding Clause 4 on nationalising industry. Jeremy's underhand and deceitful.
It seems that those on the left have rigid values, and don't understand that everything is contingent and understood by, and through, past centuries of history; that people can't just be dragooned into someone-else's order; nor treated like performing puppets.
Meanwhile, the rest of us try to consider what works with the population we have, in the world as it is.
I've come to believe that human systems such as family, economics and government, follow the same sort of complex system behaviour that the climate does – chaotic, deterministic and unpredictable. You can make large changes which appear not to change the outcome; and also immeasurably small changes which produce abrupt shifts.
So, nothing is certain in this life; except that humans will continually try to make it so; and will be aggressive towards anyone who challenges their ideologies.