BY ROGER WATSON
‘That surprises me’ is a response I often get to something I have said or done when I am speaking with friends and relatives who are more left-wing than me. Admittedly, it is not hard to be more left-wing than me, adhering as I do to a set of very traditional and conservative values. I dabbled with left-wing politics as a student. But then I began to agree with Lenin that it was an ‘infantile disorder’ and realised that the left-wing alternatives of revolutionary socialism were worse. Then Margaret Thatcher came on the scene, and I decided I was in the wrong place.
On reflection, Margaret Thatcher was probably more of a right-wing revolutionary than a true conservative, but she did many things that helped me and my wife in our early struggles to raise a family, such as getting inflation and interest rates under control and nearly doubling my salary as a staff nurse in little short of two years. During her premiership I turned right and there I have stayed.
What surprises my many left-wing friends and relatives, who know me well and probably only speak to me under duress, is that I either express some views that do not absolutely fit my conservative stance or that I hold some views in common with them.
Extraordinarily, my frequent visits to continental Europe surprise them as I ‘was so pro-Brexit’. My admiration for left-wing and feminist Turkish writers such as Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak surprises them. This, presumably, is because they would not expect me to contaminate my thinking with views that were not in accord with my conservatism. It exasperates me that they cannot accept my admiration for excellent and informative writers who can tell a story well. Presumably they expect me to be reading something by Milton Friedman each night. Tell them that the late Sir Roger Scruton was an excellent and entertaining writer even if you did not agree with all that he wrote, and you are met with a disdainful scoff.
My point is that this is strictly a one-way process.
If I express admiration for a piece of writing in The Guardian or admit that I pick up The New European newspaper every now and again, they are surprised that I do not exclusively read The Daily Telegraph. If I say that a particular Labour politician has the right idea on an issue, then I see that it simply does not compute. Where I offer my views without qualification, usually in the hope of finding some common ground, needless to say if they ever say anything positive about a Conservative politician it is qualified with ‘even if he is a Tory’ or with some such qualification.
They cannot, for example, enjoy the wonderful UK and European rail journey programmes by former Conservative MP and Defence Minister Michael Portillo without seething about his politics. I on the other hand, can watch Labour Party National Executive member and actor Tony Robinson play Baldrick in Blackadder and view his Time Team programmes with equanimity. And this seems to be the nub of the problem: left-wing people seem to have lost their sense of humour, if they ever had one, and seem to enjoy life much less. In fact, there is research to support this view.
Those on the left lead such angst-riven lives, obsessed as they are with political correctness, microaggressions, equality and diversity, climate change, privilege-checking and intersectionality that the joy has been well and truly sucked out of so much of what they do. Interactions with other people, what they read, what they watch and what they buy must be a minefield for them. Some transgression against their narrow but strongly held views lurks in every activity. Life itself is a never-ending trigger warning. No wonder so many are feeling homeless and are heading rightwards across the political spectrum to a place where they feel freer and more welcomed.
Of course, there is an element of self-righteousness in what I have said above and perhaps I am self-righteous in my more positive view of myself and those like me? But who wouldn’t much rather be self-righteous and happy than sanctimonious, carping and miserable?
Roger Watson is a Registered Nurse and Editor-in-Chief of Nurse Education in Practice.