I’ve been snatched into facebook by some old friends, and I have to admit I’m very glad about it.
I used to be very active in the British Liberal party, particularly the Young Liberals. There’s a reunion being organised, which should be fun; hence the contact. Like me, many friends of the time have dropped out of politics, many more are politically doing the same now. A few have progressed to make a greater contribution, whether as MPs, MEPs, campaigners, etc..
I wasn’t unsuccessful myself, for a youth politician, I ran things. But I dropped out.
One contact has reminded me of the big decision I made many years ago, why I dropped out. I had the opportunity, the unexpected opportunity, to take part in running IFLRY, the international liberal youth organisation. This would have been a full time, paid role, and would have required me to give up my career as a software engineer. The probable three year gap would have been fatal to that career at the time, given the pace of change in computing. I already felt that politics was no longer right. But this was the crunch. I had to chose.
I believe I could have been quite successful in international politics. Even so, I made the right decision, for me, to stick to engineering. I am a computer nerd in my bones, I would have deeply missed the process as a politician. I miss politics, but not so much.
But I gave the politics up, and gave it up to the extent that I very much try and avoid politics even now: that’s politics with a small ‘p’, the corporate variety. Politics always has ego in it; but at least politics with a capital ‘P’ has belief and principle and right as well, whichever right you believe. Corporate politics is plain self–interest, it’s evil and extremely adept. The moral pain of me–me–me just isn’t worth the gain in the pocket.
I like to think I might have made it in capital ‘P’ politics. I’d have gone down the parliamentary route, to Westminster or Strasbourg. But being a Liberal MP in Westminster is as far as you get if you’re liberal, and I am; you don’t become Mr. Minister, you don’t run things. I’d have got stuck into parliamentary committees, and done some good there as another Mr. Critic. I’d have probably been more effective in Strasbourg, because that place is not so catastrophically partisan.
Whatever happened, I’d have been stuck representing one country, still having to fight for the corner where I was born rather than the corner where I’d like to be. Worst, of course, that one corner would have been for the UK’s (England’s) frankly myopic nationalist culture. I wouldn’t have been able to wander around Europe, living in different countries, living their culture, as I am now. This national stuckism is a severe weakness of the democratic system, and is unavoidable; people rightly want to be represented by parliamentarians whom they believe understand their concerns, someone who understands their culture. I wouldn’t have a clue how to resolve it, except by continuing the development of the European Union. Schuman’s solution, integrating a war-prone continent, is a very long term one, but it is at least slowly bringing positive change.
I couldn’t go back to politics now, I’ve long since lost my perspective, my knowledge of the variety of positions and motivations for various beliefs and wishes. I have learnt, through poetry, that the emotional causes of many political beliefs are usually the very wrong place to find possible solutions, but that you won’t get a solution that’s accepted if you don’t appear to address those causes.
So, yes, I’ll go along to London in the summer and enjoy myself meeting other youngsters who are now as old as me. Then I’ll come away again.