When politics gets so serious that politeness gets thrown to one side

I’ve been in the Liberal party/Liberal Democrats for 25 years. I am happy to say that I have great friends and colleagues in the party and it is a pleasure to work alongside them. 99.99999 recurring % of Lib Dems are unfailingly joyous to deal with.

But I feel I ought to observe that there is a minuscule number of people who have hearts of gold, have the noblest of intentions, but don’t seem to realize that they are not observing basic politeness.

I’m talking about “topping and tailing” contact. Whether it be by email, phone or in person, I am a great believer in a salutation, a mutual enquiry on well-being, followed by listening if the other person isn’t too well, and then a farewell or “have a nice day” at the end. Simples.

But there are a very small number of people who don’t observe such niceties. I think they take the aims of the party very seriously. But when you work closely with them for years, then don’t see them for several months, then you get a “Yes?” only when you contact them – or worse still they look straight through you because they feel you have crossed them but haven’t seen fit to tell you how you have offended them….that’s when I begin to wonder:

1. Do such persons realize that volunteers like me may look up to them as heroines or heroes? When we have a rare encounter with them and they appear to have a strop on, do they realize that this causes great disappointment? Do they realize that just a few words of greeting or farewell would make an enormously positive difference?

2. Should these persons perhaps consider whether they should change what they are doing? If they are working hard on particular political stuff which is causing them to stress out and abandon basic politeness, might now not be a good time to consider whether they should cut back on some stuff, take it easy a bit, do stuff they enjoy more and do stuff they don’t enjoy less?

It’s just a thought… I hold no bitterness against such persons. They are within their rights not to go on a charm offensive, and they are very sincere and genuine people.

And, of course, one makes allowances for people who “go quiet” because they are undergoing some personal trauma which they’d prefer not to share. And, by the way, I don’t have any specific people in mind as I write this – I am more referring to a general phenomenon than to specific individuals. I am talking about a small genre of people for whom, over a period of decades, even a modicum of politeness seems to be a foreign country.

And, yes, it is conceivable that the minute ratio of politeness-averse people in the LibDems is the same as for the general population – it’s just I haven’t found that in my years on the planet.

And, yes, I add the caveat that I have been insensitive to others at times, and to those people I offer my belated apologies, if I have not already apologised.

Finally, perhaps I can illustrate the point by highlighting the positive end of the spectrum. If we take, say, Tim Farron, Norman Lamb and Sal Brinton as examples – I have found all three of these to be the most polite and charming people (I could name many others). They reply to emails and tweets in the most polite and friendly way. When you greet them in person they are utterly charming. They are great models, in my view.


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