Debra Allcock Tyler: Criticise the policies but lay off the personal attacks

If you ever said 'they're all the same', you are a reason you don't get the politicians you want

Debra Allcock Tyler
Debra Allcock Tyler

If you ever said ‘they’re all the same’, you are a reason you don’t get the politicians you want. If you have been rude about a politician on social media, you are a reason you don’t get the politicians you want.

Well, I managed, through some miraculous (and, frankly, unfamiliar) feats of incredible self-control to navigate my way through the Christmas period without falling out with anyone about Brexit or politics. We have opposing and strongly held views, so it’s not always easy – but it works when we remember there’s a person behind the politics.

But folk are strange aren’t they? They complain that politicians are out of touch with real people, yet have a massive hissy fit if one lives in social housing.

They despise the "elite", whom they accuse of not understanding the general public, yet vote for those very same people.

They say they want politicians to concentrate on running the country, yet object vociferously to salaries that in theory free MPs from worrying about the bills when they should be worrying about the state of the nation.

They accuse MPs of having big egos yet expect them to be immune to any and all personal attacks.

I have met quite a few MPs. Some I have found to be arrogant and dismissive of opposing views.

They’re the exception. Most of them I’ve experienced as hard-working, decent people trying to serve all their constituents, not just the ones who voted for them. They’re not all vying for power. Many of them just want to do a good job for citizens and country.

It seems to me that to stand as a public officer (MP or local councillor) takes an enormous amount of courage. They are vilified on mainstream and social media; their families are treated as fair game; they are subjected to breathtakingly shocking, horrendous personal attacks, especially if they are from a BAME background or a woman or gay, or hold a position contrary to yours.

If you stand for public office, you seem instantly to become a figure of hate simply because you have the letters "MP’" or "Cllr" attached to your name.

If you have ever said "they’re all the same", then you are a reason you don’t get the politicians you want. If you have ever been personally rude about a politician on social media, then you are a reason you don’t get the politicians you want. If you have ever muttered "well they weren’t forced to be a politician, so they shouldn’t complain about being personally attacked", then you are a reason you don’t get the politicians you want. And if you have ever said "they’re all in it for themselves", then you are a reason you don’t get the politicians you want.

Of course, there is no denying that there are other problems with the way we get the politicians we get, such as the huge costs of running for office, but if you’re one of those people who think it’s ok to make ad hominem attacks on politicians, then you’re a powerful reason why lots of really good people are never going to stand for public office.

By all means criticise the policies, the positions, the politics. Vociferously. With passion. But lay off the personal attacks. Remember, there’s a person behind the politics.

Debra Allcock Tyler is chief executive of the Directory of Social Change

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