Sometimes I really do wonder why I remain a member of the Conservative Party. When I read Peter Bone's blog the other day that listed his forty 'true-blue' proposals, I decided to immediately cancel my membership. Then, after about twenty minutes of irritation, I realised that doing so would not make the blindest bit of difference to the Tories' continued belief that aping Ukip will bring them electoral success. So instead, I decided to moan about it here in the hope that perhaps someone will read it and consider the depths to which British politics have sunk.
My journey from limp-wristed liberal to Conservative Party member and activist has been an relatively short one. Since my mid-teens I've regularly flip-flopped around on things political, often pronouncing my allegiance to one cause or another based not on a rational consideration of the issues but on which group of people I was with at the time or how bad a hangover I had.
I cringe when I consider the sort of crap I used to say (and still say, for that matter). In the early 2000s, I blew horns in central London to express my passionate distaste for the fox-hunting ban (despite having never hunted foxes). On arriving at university to study history, I arrogantly declared that I was above party politics because "ideology is irrelevant" (despite having never read a manifesto or any political philosophy). While working at a business organisation in London, I joined the 'I heart Clegg' bandwagon, but then jumped off it as soon as everyone else did. I landed in the Tory Party, not because I had read Hayek or von Mises, but mainly, I now see, because of my upbringing, my education and the opportunity it gave me to piss off my generally socialist friends.
Being the insecure chap I was, I used politics in the same way I used my clothes to project the image of the person I thought I wanted to be. In the same way that I used to wear bright, florescent vests when dancing semi-comatose in East London warehouses, I ranted about the European attack on British democracy and the horrors of the modern welfare state. I did both these things because I foolishly thought doing so made me 'me'. I now see that neither florescent vests nor snivelling anti-welfarism are particularly attractive things to be associated with.
On moving to Brussels for what I had thought would be a year, at most, I continued my self-righteous diatribe against Europe and socialism. Now I had horrifying real-world experience of socialists in action (try sitting through a speech by Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament) and a seemingly endless list of reasons for why the UK had to leave the EU. In fact, if you look at the earlier blog posts I wrote here, you can see some of that arrogance shining through quite wonderfully.
Gradually, however, I've worked out that politics and ideology is not about character or identity. They are far more than that. An ideology is the framework that one uses to understand the world and to make decisions based on that understanding. Recently I read a condensed version of Hayek's Road to Serfdom and shuddered at its appropriateness for our times. Von Mises, writing over half a century ago, diagnosed in a few pages the current financial crisis. Ideology is not irrelevant in the slightest because without it, we are effectively brain-dead automatons functioning in a purposeless machine.
There are a lot of things about the Conservative Party that I cannot abide. I find the class-based self-righteousness frustrating, the disconnected behaviour of the Osborne-Cameron clique disheartening and the closed-mindedness of the grassroots depressing. However, these are of course characteristics that can be assigned to any political party, including Labour.
Despite this, I feel most at home in the Tory Party. I do not trust the state to make decisions on my behalf because I do not trust myself. Hayek describes "the arrogant conceit" of politicians and regulators that think they can control and preempt the actions of millions of individuals each day. They can't and attempting to do so will lead to a deadening totalitarianism. This makes it very hard for me to accept the socialist view of the world, which suggests that the state can somehow smooth away the nastier 'learned' bits of human nature, even though I am quite envious of Marxist optimism.
That said, what I have also learnt is to accept other people's views, political or otherwise. My political journey has brought me to the belief that only a genuinely free market, limited by the rule of law, is capable of managing the interests of billions of individuals (a situation that has not existed for decades, if ever). That does not mean I have the right to write off the legitimately-held beliefs of a socialist who has been on their own political journey. My view of the world is mine alone, and that goes for everyone else currently conscious and alive.
So when I read things like Bone's Alternative "True Blue" Queen's Speech, I try to not get annoyed because what I see is politics as identity, politics as opportunity to score points and politics as a way to laugh and sneer. Naming a day after Margaret Thatcher, making life hell for Romanians and abolishing the Department of Energy and Climate Change might seem a good laugh, but they are more about Daily Mail headlines than genuine political leadership.
We are at the end of an era, of big government, of never-ending economic growth, of population increase. From now on, things are going to get tough, whether we like it or not. There is no money left (even the wealth of the 1% is fake central bank money). Rather than spend time worrying about what expenses they can and can't claim or whether they will get reelected, politicians should be having a frank, honest and sober discussion about the UK's currently unstable future. If they do not, my guess is it will only be a matter of time before my generation says 'fuck off' to the current system, as it is in many parts of the world right now.