Thursday, January 02, 2014

Sarah Teather and her magic carpet

Today's Guardian has an interview with Sarah Teather by Rowena Mason.

I don't agree with Mason's contention that Sarah is "a strong voice on the left of the Lib Dems". Until she announced her decision to leave politics, as I have argued before, she was determinedly loyal to the leadership.

And we have heard little from her since she made that announcement, in part, perhaps, because her failure to support equal marriage alienated much of the party from her.

But there is still much of interest in this interview on both a personal and a political level.

I have always felt that those who believe in God and those who do not should find it difficult to talk to one another because they see world so differently.

Usually this is not the case, but something of the sort was true of Sarah's contribution to Liberal Democrats do God. Intensely personal, it spun off to a plane far removed from the pot holes and council agendas that concern most Liberal Democrat activists.

Partly out of respect and partly out of puzzlement, I steered clear of Sarah's essay in my review. I was reminded of John Lennon's comment on George Harrison when the Beatles embraced Indian mysticism: "The way George is going, he’ll be flying a magic carpet by the time he’s forty."

And the Guardian interview confirms the centrality of religion to Sarah's life. Her decision to step down as an MP was taken after a month-long at a house of prayer run by the Jesuits.

Back in the everyday world, Sarah makes an important observations on politics in Britain today:
Ministers had become caught up in a "cycle of democratic self-harm" in which they spent too much time "flapping around trying to be relevant" and responding to imaginary problems in the hope of pleasing the public, she said. "We get ourselves into our own little spiral. We end up inventing problems to pretend we're relevant, and then try to fix the problems we've just invented. The EU migration stuff is a classic example. 
"The public know it's guff, so their trust in politicians goes down. And then our anxiety about not being relevant goes up, so we kind of get into a cycle of democratic self-harm, so we get progressively more frenzied about chasing wilder and wilder straw men and the public get more and more cynical. I'm not convinced that's the best way of demonstrating we're in touch."
In fact, in the online version at least, she makes this points twice in the same words because of bad editing. Instead, it would have been useful to hear her expand on this point:
She also has some slightly wider criticisms of the way politics has converged on to the same populist ground.
I wish Sarah well in future and suspect she will re-emerge with an important job in the charity sector one day. Whatever its motivation, a decision to walk away from party politics voluntarily is rarely the sign of a bad person.

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