When politics drives people away ...

This evening I attended the AGM of Lancashire area Conservatives as Regional Chairman. It was a constructive and friendly meeting chaired by the outgoing area chairman, Sir Robert Atkins and, in the circumstances, a useful reminder that politics does not have to be unpleasant, destructive or extreme.

The reason this was a useful reminder is that as I left the hotel where the meeting took place to drive to the next location I needed to be, I put my car radio onto BBC Radio 4 just as a very well-produced but deeply disturbing "Crossing Continents" programme was starting.

BBC Radio 4 - Crossing Continents, Florida's political refugees

The programme was about certain trends in US politics but trends in American politics, culture and society often spread to the rest of the world, and when I ask myself if it is possible that what was being reported in America could happen here in Britain, I have to answer, yes it could.

Lucy Proctor presented a report on people in the USA who are uprooting themselves and their families and moving to completely different states, often thousands of miles away, because they cannot bear the political views of the majority political tendancy among their neighbours.

For example, Republicans and conservatives moving from Illinois to Florida while Democrats and liberals (in the US sense of the word) are moving in the other direction from Florida to Illinois.

Usually not just because they cannot stand the politics of their neighbours or the local state leadership, but because the actively feel unsafe.

I find it extremely worrying, indeed downright frightening, that politics in a major established democracy could become sufficiently tribal and partisan to drive people apart like that, but although we have not, I think, reached that level of division, politics in almost every established democracy seems to have become more and more partisan and tribal over the last few years.

And this is something which all of us - not just politicians, not just the press, but also everyone who comments on politics - need to think about.

It's why politicians of all parties ought to be careful not to demonise their opponents. Constructive criticism is fine, and is a necessary part of politics.

Spouting hate isn't.

Whether you are the home secretary or the deputy leader of the Labour party, you should not use highly offensive four letter words starting with "s" to describe your political opponents. I am pleased that both of them apologised.

Nor is it clever for anyone else to use the same sort of epithet on social media about people who express a view you don't agree with or belong to a political party you don't like. It persuades nobody. At best tf is likely to encourage people whom you insult in that way feel contempt for you and for your position. At worst you will have moved Britain a tiny bit towards the sort of dire situation described in tonight's "Crossing Continents" R4 programme.


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