I’ve always voted in general elections and, save for one time, I’ve been steadfastly Conservative. My political consciousness was shaped by my parents who were faithful Conservative voters and for most of my adult life the economy, law and order, education and a sense of Britishness have been – in my humble opinion ─ the core values of the Conservative Party.
Being British can be defined in several ways, but put simply, it’s about being reasonable and playing fair. I don’t particularly like cricket, but the English phrase, “It’s just not cricket” typifies my instinct of injustice and dishonesty.
My view of the world
My previous life as a cop gave me a keen professional interest in the levers of community cohesion where public services play a vital role in maintaining the things that I hold dear in life. I was minded to believe that the Conservative Party better represented my view of the world, and, generally speaking, their trajectory of travel was – more or less – aligned to where I wanted to go. I was also privileged in that I had a good, stable, job that was designed to look after me for life.
After my kids left the family home and my wife died of cancer, there was an almost cataclysmic void in my life. A qualifying law degree gave my sense of community a more defined meaning as I finally had a greater understanding of how our wonderful democracy works. I was fascinated to learn how the law is actually made and how our unwritten constitution is held together. At its central core, it was supposed to be about how we wanted our society to work for the greater good. Consequently, politics became less abstract, as with time on my hands and a rapidly developing interest, I became an elected member of the council.
Being a councillor was epic
For the majority of my tenure, being a councillor was epic. The civil servants who actually run services are brilliant. But my post-graduate vision of this vital local governmental tier soon tarnished. The majority of those elected were good people and understood they were there to represent their communities, advocate for ward residents and hold officers to account. Some individuals, however, fed almost exclusively on power and status. Notwithstanding these enormous egos, the local authority I served was well run and I was proud of many of the local initiatives achieved.
Unfortunately, unless you stand gallantly as an independent, our electoral system is geared towards an explicit association with a political party. In 2015, the Conservatives, led by David Cameron, unexpectedly won an overall majority, and life – especially for a Conservative voter – seemed pretty settled. But the term and condition that I hadn’t given much credence to was the manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on our membership of the European Union (EU).
Something called UKIP
I had seen adverts in the newspapers for something called UKIP, but my constitutional knowledge dismissed such a fringe party. The UK was always independent. Even though we were members of the EU – exercising significant clout across Europe with the least risk – parliamentary sovereignty would never allow us to be bossed about by any external force. First year undergraduate law study contained everything I needed to know to appreciate that the central claim of the Vote Leave campaign was utter nonsense. “Taking back control” made me laugh.
But not everyone had studied the first-year undergraduate syllabus. Brexit passed one democratic test in that the majority of those who voted chose to terminate our EU membership, but it failed on the most crucial requirement our system needed for constitutional check and balance – honesty. Brexit was sold as the absurd antidote to vague threats and those politicians who championed it did so on ideologies that were simply untrue. Several – like many of those in my own council chamber – probably didn’t read their briefs and let ignorance-fuelled egos rule the day, but some politicians drowned out those who played cricket by the rules with lies on a blockbuster scale ─ lies so massive they needed the side of a bus on which to display them. On that fateful day in 2016, I was stunned beyond comprehension.
The following year, the incumbent government quietly confirmed that the central tenet of the Leave campaign was a lie: the white paper The United Kingdom’s exit from, and new partnership with, the European Union (item 2.1) states: “The sovereignty of Parliament is a fundamental principle of the UK constitution. Whilst Parliament has remained sovereign throughout our membership of the EU, it has not always felt like that.”
It “felt like that” because of the likes of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.
Nonetheless, two years later I joined the political field foolishly thinking that eventually Brexit would signal only a slight realignment in our hitherto incredibly productive relationship with our European partners, even with Johnson in the mix. I naively thought his bluster would give way to the passionately pro-European stance he articulated in his book on Winston Churchill – a lively summer read under the beautiful Tenerife sun. I hadn’t realised what a consummate chameleon he really is.
The most damaging period of political carnage
Johnson’s stint as prime minister is the most damaging period of political carnage I have ever experienced. I so wanted to stand down as a second-tier politician, but the counsel of one of the good people in the local Conservative Party reminded me of my promise to represent those folk who had voted for me, as well as the majority of others who hadn’t.
The turnout at elections – particularly local – is abysmal, and the minority choose those who ultimately represent them. My legal brain kept reminding me of the obnoxiousness of breaching a contract and my moral compass reminded me to play fairly by the rules – even if I latterly abhorred them. Anything else would simply not be cricket. So I stayed, but rowed back from as many political engagements as I possibly could, focussing on ward work. At times it was excruciating.
By now, the nutters from the European Research Group (ERG) had clearly taken over the asylum. Although the Johnson circus left town, Liz Truss couldn’t have wrecked the UK economy any more in her ─ thankfully ─ limited stay of chaos. But the sleaze remained.
Raw sewage – both real and metaphorically – flowed: the Rwanda policy, draconian laws to quell protest, the trebling of mortgage repayments overnight, a cabinet devoid of credibility and a host of MPs who defy any rational explanation of their complete ineptitude. The Conservative Party I previously voted for and was once a member of, had disappeared into a black hole so massive it has totally sucked away all the values it ever had, morphing into a far-right nut-job collation of crazies. I suspect that all political parties have an element of numbnuts, but when the loons are in the ascendency, there is no way back.
Like me, many of my colleagues stood down. Some stayed on, and many of them did it for the right reasons, as they are good people. But the Conservative apparatus allowed this abomination to happen, and its toxicity is both terminal and terrifying as innocents are pulled into the swirling vortex. I didn’t vote Conservative at the latest local elections. Not because I didn’t believe that the blue candidates were worthy – far from it – but my anger was so apocalyptic that it won the day.
This emotion hasn’t suddenly evaporated, although this cathartic release has helped, and if you have stayed the distance, I applaud your stamina!
I feel ashamed, tired, betrayed, and cheated. It’s just not cricket.