Is politics genetic? I mean is there some sort of DNA test to show that you think equality is good, but, come off it, it’s never gonna happen? And can it tell you who you really are? I ask because a lot of friends are doing those commercial DNA tests at the moment to find out, what exactly? Scientifically, I don’t think the database is big enough to tell you much, but then I am my own special creation. My mother was adopted and my father American, so I could be anything. I am impure. That’s all I need to know. My ethnicity is not that interesting to me because purity is not that interesting to me.
I feel much the same way about politics and all this talk of tribalism. “I was born Labour,” I hear people say. Emily Thornberry said she would rather die than leave the Labour party at the weekend. That seems a little extreme. Some people in the Labour party already appear half-dead, because they are distressed at the rigor mortis of their leadership.
It seems, though, that some people are just born Tory. With nonchalant arrogance, they become MPs just because they can. Cameron, Hunt, Osborne. A portfolio career in which wrecking the country is just a blip on your CV.
But in between the headbangers, in between the ardent leavers and the “very disappointed” remainers are the great majority; the unsettled and the unsure.
Every vox pop ever conducted finds someone who can’t name a minister. Who, for instance, is the deputy PM? Who is your MEP? Every vox pop also finds someone who wants something to happen but isn’t sure what that something is. Everyone is bored with Brexit – this is the tribe that most people actually belong to and the one that the media mostly ignores. The tribe of those of the uncertain; the tribe that would like to trust someone to do the right thing, but doesn’t trust our political class to do it; the tribe that goes nowhere near Westminster, never mind Brussels.
Yet still the genetics-obsessed boast, “I am a fourth-generation socialist from the left,” while the strange colonial inheritance of the right endures. This is politics as faith – my belief is bigger than yours.
But this is all now unravelling, as Labour is seen to be facilitating a Brexit that is heretical. Those who have walked away, then, are liberated, or they are traitors – depending on your tribe.
Tribalism values loyalty over free-thinking and thus we have the outriders of both parties raging into a social media void. Most of The Independent Group are the provisional wing of the mildy disgruntled, but look at what is being thrown at them.
If a nation is an imagined community then let us use some imagination. Nation before party please, and this nation contains multitudes; it always has. It is full of uncertainty as well as self-belief. I don’t give a damn about how your father voted or what tradition you think you belong to. Those battles are in the past. The tribe that wins is the tribe that values flexibility over intransigence – the tribe that adapts triumphs. That is a fact of evolution. You don’t need to check your genes to know this.