“What we cannot bear is when someone from across the political divide from us is obviously believable, likeable and reasonable”

Stephen Fry, in a very delightfully roundabout essay on the culture of UK politics in light of their upcoming election, hits upon some very important political and psychological truths:

When I meet a Labour voter who can only hiss, stamp and fume at any Tory, or a Conservative voter who can only jeer and condemn a Labour voter then I bridle, bristle and simply writhe with indignation. Let this be known and celebrated: we all have the right to vote the way we want. We all have our reasons and motivations and they do not justify anyone insulting or reviling us. Actually, the fact is that ‘reasons’ is probably the wrong word, for we are all (or almost all) energised in politics above all by feelings, by loyalties and deep turbulent emotions that bubble down in our depths. These have far more influence upon our political ‘views’ than rational and logical considerations. There may be those who are capable of carefully and objectively weighing the qualities of each party’s policies and coming to a voting decision on that basis, but I have yet to meet such people. We all know we should be like that, but we all know that we should only put into our mouths what reason tells us is nutritious, calorifically justified and environmentally sustainable. We eat by appetite, emotion and desire and we vote according to criteria of loyalty and connection that are much closer to the support of football teams than to rational assessment and analysis. And, of course, we respond to the personalities that are put up in front of us. I have yet to find anyone who is not influenced by personality. Only, being humans, we are all hypocrites, and we accuse those who dislike our hero or admire our villain of being the ones who succumb to the cheap allure of personality politics, we of course, are immune. Of course, so deep run our alliances that we impute good qualities to personalities we would otherwise not warm to and see ghastly characteristics in those whom we would probably like in real life, if only they were not from the Other Side. What we cannot bear is when someone from across the political divide from us is obviously believable, likeable and reasonable. That is when we accuse their supporters of being victims of personality politics and the individual in question of being ‘a media creature’.

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