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  • Lawrence Bailey

Stuck in the middle with … no-one

An accusation once levelled at former premier Tony Blair was that he took moderation to extremes.

The jibe wasn’t considered particular funny at the time – or now, for that matter – but the observation still serves as a reminder of how folks should be careful what they wish for.

A decade or so ago, pollsters recorded a sense of frustration among voters as to how UK politics suffered from an over-crowded centre-stage.

Barely a cigarette paper appeared to separate the main parties on some issues. Understandably perhaps, the call among punters was for more distinctive policies.

It only took a few at the fringe to latch onto this latent discontent and quickly garner support before the mainstream parties reacted accordingly. Soon, political survival meant coming up with a sharper focus of your own.

Nowadays, we live in starkly polarised times where it’s left versus right, European versus Brexiteer, independent versus unionist and Piers Morgan versus everyone else.

Indeed, the notion of setting up a political movement to straddle the middle-ground is considered as crazy as building a house in no-man’s land.

Strangely, as our political choices have become more defined, so our democratic options have become less abundant. We’ve lost the right of movement at home and abroad and soon it will be illegal to take the streets in protest over that fact.

Then again, reading some of the stuff on social media, it’s possible to conclude that all this is fine and dandy for those who prefer their messages painted on the side of a bus.

They favour direct-democracy where the “peepul” call the shots though referenda and the politicians just do as they’re told

It’s noticeable how demands have grown for “clarity” and “certainty”, as if these have suddenly become potentially accessible qualities previously denied to generations of voters by a deceitful establishment.

But, you see, there’s only one political system that delivers absolute certainty, without doubts or deviations. It’s called Fascism and it’s still available in an attractive range of designs and colours. Sometimes, in fact, and given the right circumstances, you don’t even recognise that it’s happened.

Like I said, people should be careful what they wish for.


Whatever you call it, it’s still intimidation

I found it a dispiriting experience to exchange message board comments with someone who was quite proud to have been part of an organised protest that stood outside the Liberty stadium and booed and heckled as players took the knee.

His contention was that the anti-racist gesture “brought politics into sport”.

The wording of his justification was clearly copied from elsewhere but when I suggested his actions had a similar political motivation, his response was a lot more basic.

No, he insisted, this was all about (expletive) freedom – his freedom, naturally.

Scratch the surface of the patriotic rhetoric and you soon find that it’s about having the freedom to abuse, oppress and exclude others you consider “different”. In doing so, of course, they demand impunity by claiming to have an unrestrained right of expression.

Whatever terms they might use however, others call it intimidation and harassment. As it happens, it’s the latter who have the law on their side. In this country, thankfully, that’s still what freedom is about.




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