A few weeks ago I was chatting with a life-long worker in the NHS. They were also a life-long Labour supporter, as were all their family.
They were telling me they were going to vote Conservative in the upcoming General Election and that they like the Conservative Party Leader.
I assume you’re looking at me like I was looking at them, are you SERIOUS?
Actually, I tried not to look too shocked because I know how off-putting it can be when someone who is listening to you looks like they just swallowed a fly.
As laid back as I could, I asked them why and they told me, how their parents would be turning in their graves but how much they dislike the Labour Party Leader.
I had never really seen before how much a personal dislike could turn a persons voting choice, in my head the two things are different kettles of fish entirely.
So I asked what they thought about the Conservatives and the NHS cuts and possible privatisation, and they talked for a while about working in the front line of the NHS and what changes they thought were necessary. I asked them if they’d ever thought about running for government and they just laughed, but I was serious. You’re right, they said, how can people in government, who have no experience of real life, make decisions that affect the rest of us?
And then, I watched them talk themselves out of voting Conservative and before they left, they thanked me for talking with them. To be fair, mostly I listened but it was pretty special … and who knows, how long lasting could that conversation be?
I wonder how they will vote on Thursday…
It really made me wonder, what is it about political party leaders that can cause such divisions and shifts in behaviour.
In some way, do people equate political leaders (or just leaders in general I suppose too) with parental figures? If you have a strong personal feeling about a political leader, in some way do you think “oh I would’t want him for a Dad” or, “I wish my mum had been more like them” and then make a voting decision based on those, completely incidental, parental feelings?
The person I spoke to, when they’d noticed the big picture about the Conservatives in general (elite right-wing government cutting basic needs to society, right?!) there seemed no way they could, in good conscience, vote for that party. But they’d been sold a lot of criticism about a particular political leader and it had totally swayed them from their morals.
What do you think? Is the cult of the person helpful in politics? Do our childhood disappointments make a big difference to how we might see a political party leader or, to be fair, a political party in general?