The Richmond Park By-Election: Why the “political binary” is losing at its own game

I’ve gone on about the pointlessness of the gender binary in several posts, but reading newspaper articles, and the online comments beneath them, I get the impression that some see political opinion as binary. What is it about the number 2?

On American articles, the most vocal are those in the so-called “alt-right” facing-off against “the left”, or to be more specific, ultra-conservatives against ultra-liberals. I reckon the majority of people, who foster far less extreme political opinions, take one look at the battle taking place and want no part in it. I certainly don’t.

But while the hard-right and the hard-left fight it out amongst themselves under the watch of the world’s media (who just love a sensational story), those in the middle end up going one of two ways: they flock to a third party, or they become disenfranchised.

Yesterday, the UK saw the former in action. After former London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith resigned from the Conservative Party to run as an independent, he was defeated in the resulting by-election by Sarah Olney of the Liberal Democrats. In the 2015 General Election, the Lib Dems took quite an electoral beating after five years of cosying up to the Tories in a coalition government, but under new leader Tim Farron, they’re experiencing something of an electoral revival – right under the noses of a media too pre-occupied with Brexit and smearing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

On the political spectrum, I am what’s defined as a “left-libertarian”. On the economic left-right spectrum, I’m a little left of centre. I believe the state should provide essential needs like health, education, defence, law and order, energy and transport (at a push, retail banking), but outside of those core areas, the private sector is free to operate.

On the other authoritarian/libertarian political spectrum, I’m very much on the libertarian side. An efficient police force should not waste resources on “perceived immorality”: if nobody is getting hurt (and, by ‘hurt’ I don’t mean ‘offended’), the police should not be involved. Let them focus on the real criminals.

Homosexuality is a classic example of “perceived immorality” – it offends many with rigidly-conservative religious views, but hurts nobody. What two consenting adults get up to in the bedroom is nobody’s business. And yes, I do believe gay couples should be free to marry and have children: love that strong should be celebrated not denied, and when it comes to raising children, parenting style eclipses parental sexuality. A child is far better off with a loving gay couple than an abusive straight couple.

Such views are too relaxed to generate the strong reactions needed to make them newsworthy in the eyes of our mainstream media. What I’m hoping is that the public are now waking up to the “divide-and-conquer” tactics employed by the government and the media, and realising that there is a third ‘moderate’ option.

I’ve never voted Lib Dem before – I’ve always sided with the Green candidate – but I do agree with a majority of Tim Farron’s policies. While I think Jeremy Corbyn is more likely to become Prime Minister, many Labour MPs are still antagonistic towards him, and the media are quite keen to publish their opinions. If the Lib Dems catch the media and the pollsters off-guard, capitalise on the disarray between the two main parties, and steal the next election: I would not be unhappy.

Unlikely, I know, but anything is possible in this time of political upheaval.


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