Intolerance – Excuse of bigots down the years?
I recently bumped into a former colleague who during our conversation suddenly launched into an exposition of what is wrong with the country.
It ranged from there are too many ‘pink’ gay people in politics who have never had a proper job, to it’s all the fault of the Government who have gone soft on immigration.
They have also gone soft on crime, abandoned the NHS and have encouraged scroungers by giving too much away to the idlers who don’t work.
I should I suppose at this stage say that having worked alongside the person for over 10 years both professionally and politically I have never heard him express such views before.
So why now?
To start with his anger was directed at the Conservative led coalition Government for their decision to close HMP Wellingborough which has led to him being unemployed after having said it was safe from closure and in fact are on record as saying it was an exemplar of how a Category C prison should be run.
On that issue all I could do is agree with him especially having written and been on local radio condemning the decision last year.
It was when he went on to talk about local politics and Northampton that this usually reasonable and sensible man really got into his stride.
A stride which if taken at face value revealed a racist homophobic attitude that he made quite clear he was convinced was shared by many others.
As always when challenged by pointing out that we had both worked with and had friends, male and female who were foreign in origin who are both visible and non- visible in appearance and that we had gay friends he immediately went on the defensive with the age-old statement that,
” Some of my best friends are black and I have friends who are gay”?
The problem is that as the conversation went on it became clear that his frustration has come out of being ignored and a feeling that there is a conspiracy against the white indigenous British population by the three main established political parties.
Given my knowledge of the man concerned and those people I know who in the recent County Council elections voted UKIP it is a perception that is definitely shared by many and is something that will be ignored at our peril.
When I say ‘our peril’ I don’t just mean those of us involved in the bubble that is politics but the whole of society.
Once such a perception takes hold it can very easily take on an unstoppable guise akin to an epidemic and spreads rapidly to infect others who might otherwise be resistant.
The Conservatives appear to be happy with the situation relying on those on the right of the party who have currently been seduced by UKIP returning to vote for them in 2015 if for no other reason than to stop Labour.
It is a dangerous game to play.
But what about Labour?
Have or are we really addressing the reasons so many have turned to right-wing parties.
The issues of immigration, integration and fairness for everyone are fundamental to creating a fairer society where ability, attitude, aptitude and hard work are rewarded.
They are discussions and debates that cannot be ignored if Labour is going to attract the votes of the millions of people who currently see all political parties as no more that self-promoting and out of touch professional politicians who are only interested in their targeted sections of society.
The problem is that whilst I disagreed with just about everything we talked about my former colleagues attitude has a resonance of reality about it which may be more powerful in its perception than in the reality of the facts.
Sadly I suspect that he will continue to excuse his attitude by repeating the fears whipped up by politicians and the media he will continue to believe that because of “I have friends who are”; he hasn’t joined the racists and bigots.
The future it appears is not only uncertain but downright bloody dangerous.