Lockdown life and exploring liberalism

Twitter would have you think that lockdown life consists of grabbing a shotgun and the last tin of baked beans. However, if I’m honest, I can’t really complain.

I’ve got it pretty good. My health is in check, I’ve been given extensions on all my Uni deadlines, and I’ve got a Tesco Express just around the corner from me – which, yes, is pretty stocked up.

I mean, I think it’s fair to say this whole lockdown palava isn’t going to and shouldn’t bother me at all. It was only a month ago that me and my fellow Uni mates were having to report on the virus for our University News Days (I’m a Journalism student). When you’re reporting on it, for what is an assessed News Day, it doesn’t always hit home to you that you’re reporting on real-world events and using real people’s stories to impress your lecturers.

It’s quite sad, when you think about it. Still, on the other hand, most journalists find themselves having to detach themselves from stories they’re reporting on emotionally.

So, what am I going to do to pass the time??? Well, I suppose one could waste it away seeing how many Doritos I can fit into my mouth (15), or I could start blogging and subject the Internet to my liberal, Gen-Z nonsense.

But what am I going to blog about? I’m no special correspondent or Westminster Wonk who’s clued up on fiscal policy. I’m merely a freelance journalist (and a broke student) who is seeking adventure and excitement, but at the moment is having to make do with a Pot Noodle and box of Kleenex.

These blog posts will be a selection of political musings, mindless diary entries and hopefully (now and again) filled with some insightful stories to share.

So, the big question, my politics. What am I?

Many would jump to the conclusion that being a public-schooled, white, middle-class Londoner, I must somehow fall into the Yuppie Tory category. But I’m sorry to disappoint you. I don’t align myself with the Conservative Party, or any party for that matter.

Once upon a time, I was a Tory, but not because of David Cameron or Boris Johnson. It’s down to individuals like Ruth Davidson (former Scottish Tory Leader) and then later people like Rory Stewart. Davidson, in particular, broke the mould and tried her best to detoxify the party from being associated with that Eton chumocracy label.

She, if anything, was a hardcore centrist, a compassionate yet firm leader and boy, did she give Nicola Sturgeon a run for her money. Nobody would ever have thought that a Tory could win in Scotland, but let me tell you this, if Ruth Davidson had carried on as Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, I reckon she could’ve been making her way to Bute House (Residence of the First Minister).

I remember visiting the Scottish Parliament when I was 16 to go and watch First Minister’s Questions. I left inspired by Ruth’s performance, and it was at that point I knew that politics, or working in and around the topic, was something I wanted to pursue as a career.

But although Ruth remains loyal to the Conservative Party, I cannot and have not for a long time. Having explored my inner beliefs and philosophy over the last couple of years, I would identify as a radical centrist and probably associate myself with a liberal school of thought. I don’t believe, in this day and age, that attaching myself to a party or political organisation will do me any favours.

I’m primarily working as a journalist, so I do believe it’s healthy to try not to always be a member of a particular tribe/team. More often than not, you may find yourself subconsciously cheering on a side that ought to be held to account.

Many of you may read the words centrism and immediately draw connotations to Tony Blair – not just a former Prime Minister, but also the leading pioneer behind New Labour. The significant Labour Party rebrand in which they ditched the old, left-wing militant views that were hindering their election success and instead opted for the ‘Third Way’.

The Third Way is a centrist vision in which the philosophy “attempts to reconcile right-wing and left-wing politics by advocating a varying synthesis of centre-right and centrist economic platforms with some centre-left social policies.”

Despite these being the ideals that I stand by, I don’t believe Tony Blair did it any justice. The problem with centrism under Blair was that within his government lay another ideology that he was using to govern, which was cronyism.

It’s the kind of cronyism we see at work today in Johnson’s government, with Dominic Cummings using his unelected powers and influence to try and dictate what happens. It’s somewhat similar to how Tony Blair and his chief spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, also operated. On several occasions, decisions would be made by the Prime Minister – for instance, the idea to build the Millennium Dome (O2 Arena) to herald a new era, and then Cabinet members would be later informed after plans had been approved.

That’s not the way to run a government. It’s the way to run a dictatorship.

So, although individuals like Blair and Johnson would have you believe that they genuinely represent centrism, what they actually advocate for is populism. And although the Lib Dems, Change UK, TIGgers etc. all wanted people to think they were the sensible centrist option, unfortunately, they are just quite pathetic and not all that democratic either. So, at the moment, all we have is Rory Stewart. Let’s just hope he can make a success of next year’s Mayoral elections, and then… who knows? We may well be seeing our very own ‘En Marche’ movement here in the UK.

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