In the hope of decency in politics


As a young person looking increasingly despairingly towards politics, I found myself reinvigorated with hope for the future of decent, honest, and respectful politics when I watched the results of the West Midlands Mayoral race announced. 

I watched with depressing amounts of astonishment as Richard Parker – the Labour candidate who was announced as having won by a slither (only 1,500 votes!) – paid homage to his predecessor. Nor was it a hurried or a last thought in the speech; it only took Parker a couple of sentences to pile praise on his Tory counterpart.

He “thanked” Andy, turning to the ex-mayor and simply yet decently stating that Andy “deserves great credit” for “leading this region through a number of great challenges”. 

In his speech, Street returned the favour. Humbly shushing a crowd cheering his name by asking for that “all to be left behind”, within seconds he also praised his opponents for a “courteous” campaign, and specifically how Parker “conducted himself”. 

This, to me, seemed not only the decent thing to do, but a radical thing to do. In a time where political mudslinging – such as the whole rubbish ‘lefty lawyer’ insult thrown at Starmer by Sunak – is becoming commonplace, it is reassuring to see two opponents pay direct homage to each other, and show that human kindness and English decency can rise above the temporary demands of politics. 

Such decency is not, however, rare or new. I myself found great pleasure in seeing my local candidates standing together chatting pleasantly outside the polling booth – a gentle reminder that, on the small, local, level, kindness and common decency can shine through. 

Witnessing this, along with Street’s and Parker’s demonstration of dignity and honour, I found myself recalling that stunning moment in 2008, where John McCain, then Republican Presidential Candidate, took a microphone away from a supporter who said he was scared of an Obama presidency, and another who claimed that Obama was an “Arab”, telling a stadium full of jeering supporters that Obama was simply a “decent, family man citizen, who I just happen to have disagreements with”.

Even the boos of his own supporters could not repress the simple decency and honour behind these words. 

Politics clearly can be a place where we show our humanity, and get beyond the polarisation that a Tory party, desperate for any political ‘mud’, can lob.

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