Apparently there was a dust-up in British parliament because Labour member Laura Pidcock said she “wasn’t going to be friends with Tory [conservative] women.” I mean, this controversy is ridiculous for so many reasons–I have never “befriended” a colleague either, so I don’t understand why that would be contentious–but also because it implies that somebody’s personal politics shouldn’t affect your view of them.
Abi Wilkinson breaks it down. She distinguishes between “ambivalence” towards suffering versus actively perpetrating it (which is precisely the reason I tend to dislike conservatives), but otherwise has a pretty good rebuttal:
Roughly a week ago, Labour MP Laura Pidcock said in an interview that she doesn’t want to “hang out with Tory women” in Parliament. The 29-year-old was discussing the support she’d received from one specific group of Labour colleagues, who have invited her to join a WhatsApp group and offer advice on “anything from procedure to women’s issues”. A barrage of criticism followed, with numerous pundits expressing disapproval at her attitude. Comments she previously made about Tory MPs were taken out of context and presented as evidence she sees everyone who has ever voted Conservative as “the enemy”. Her actual point – that she has already friends she chooses to spend time with and is in Parliament to “be a mouthpiece for [her] constituents and class” rather than to socialise – got lost.
Heaven forbid a democratic representative represent their constituency. Didn’t she get the message that Parliament is just a proxy for corporate networking??
(The sarcasm runs deep)
There are two broad, related criticisms of Pidcock’s stance which seem to have become muddled. The first is that by ruling out friendship with MPs from the other side of the House, she’ll limit her ability to engage in potentially productive cross-party work. The second presumes there is no relevant difference between Parliament and any other workplace or social context, and posits that writing off a whole group of people without getting to know them individually is simply narrow-minded.
Both of these arguments rest on a very particular understanding of what politics actually is. Cross-party work is only possible so far as there is an overlap in goals and priorities. Pidcock has since clarified that she will “work with a Tory if it is going to benefit the people in [her] constituency” – but argues that basic ideological differences make the possibilities for cooperation limited. She notes that she has already attempted to reach out, but when she “asked them to sign [her] letter asking for a pause to Universal Credit” she was ignored, and describes Conservative MPs as “ambivalent to the suffering of [her] constituents”.
“Ambivalent to the suffering of constituents” seems to nicely summarize the direction of conservative politics since the 70s, yes.
Many such MPs would doubtless object to this characterisation, but this disagreement is at the heart of the conflict between Conservatives and the left. Publicly, at least, Tories tend to argue that their policies are the only logical option in the circumstances that exist. Austerity might hit the poor hardest, but that is just unavoidable. We simply have to balance the books. The way the economy works now is the the only way it can possibly work. To see politics as fundamentally conflictual, as Pidcock does, you need to believe that more than one possible alternative exists.
The consequences of the last politician to balance the books at any cost can still be felt in Alberta, over a decade after his legacy. Unless you’re rich, I don’t recommend it. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the primary recruiting arena for conservative politics is wealthy frat boys.
Read more here.