The recent spate of Corbynista MPs declaring that they could “never make friends with a Tory” is a worrying trend in UK politics.
Throughout my time working in politics as a Conservative Party political agent in the 1980s and as an activist before that, and an observer since, I have made friends who have all political affiliations and preferences, or none. Somebody’s politics has never been a criteria for or a barrier to friendship.
My wife was a Conservative councillor in Haringey in the 1980s and made friends as I did across the spectrum. Two of our very dearest friends were leading Labour activists, one of them “gave away” my wife at our wedding. The vicar who married us is a Labour supporting former journalist who was the anti-Thatcher Industrial Editor of The Observer when I was a Tory Boy.
When my wife was a councillor she sat on the opposite side of the chamber to a Councillor Jeremy Corbyn.
Interestingly her cross-party friendships extended to most of the Labour Group, but not to Jeremy or any of his acolytes. Councillor Corbyn was my opposite number as the Labour agent and even back then had a Momentum-style organisation behind him which sat outside the Labour Party.
Corbyn’s mates torched my car once, but that was by the way – that kind of thing was not uncomon in 1980s politics.
They did not share in our cross-party friendships because they regarded an Tory as the enemy.
They could see no good in half the councillors on their own side, let alone those on our side. There was no common ground as far as they were concerned. The “struggle” was not just about having a battle of ideas. It was about defeating people.
If anything they were more aggressive to anybody who stood in their way on their own side than on ours.
They persecuted many who refused to act illegally when they were told to. Public service minded people were hounded out of politics because they chose not to break the law.
If that’s how those people back then treated their own “comrades” perhaps we should not be surprised by their lack of civility now.
This is a biased opinion from me obviously, but I’ve always thought that their failing was that they were motivated not by hope but by hate. The same applies in 2017 as the same kind of thinking, rallying around the same man, approaches real power.
To me this is not worrying just because I disagree intellectually with their politics, but because these people don’t just want to defeat our arguments, they want to defeat us as people.
Be afraid. I am.