Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Politics and cowardice

There has been much talk recently about the forthcoming general election debates. David Cameron said he wanted the Green Party to take part in the debates, his thinking being that their presence would harm Labour in the same way that UKIP's presence harms his party.

In response, some people have accused Cameron of cowardice. I find this rather strange.

Firstly, I would not necessarily accuse any politician of cowardice. They have been willing to put themselves in the line of the media's fire, to be subjected to the most intrusive, unfair (and sometimes hideous) attention from the media. The moment you become a PPC, yet alone an MP or PM, you have a big, bright target painted on your back. It is not something I would ever do, and neither have most of the people throwing the cowardice accusations about.

Secondly, there are many different forms of cowardice. Yesterday I was talking to a woman whose newborn baby started coughing up blood in his cot at night (*). Her husband, a usually reliable man, fainted whilst she prepared the car to take the baby to hospital. Some people cope admirably with some events, yet fail with others.

Thirdly, strategic manoeuvring should not be confused with cowardice. Are people in the army who retreat to a more favourable position cowards? Cameron appears to have won this particular battle, with the broadcasters inviting several other parties that will probably split the debatre's left-wing representation. He probably thinks that is worth a few blunt hits from his opponents.

When it comes to politics, Cameron is not a coward. Neither is Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg or Nigel Farage. They've all knowingly put themselves in a position that I would find intolerable, knowing what they and their families would face.

They may not run into burning buildings to rescue people, or go fully-armed into a hopeless battle. But they're not being asked to. They are dealing with a massive amount of pressure, much of it unfair. They did this knowingly, and it is something that I could never do.

In that way I am a big custardly coward.

(*) The baby was fine; the blood came from a rather bad case of mastitis.  Ouch.