When my dad is reclining, he is usually in an armchair with half an eye on the television or slouched at the kitchen table nibbling lidl cream crackers. At these times, I fire questions at him to which he responds, occasionally and with delay. Sometimes they seek shamelessly his affirmation and affection: “Liebst du mich noch, als Mensch und als Katzi?” (Do you still love me, as a Person and as a Katzi? – a strange interrogative habit I developed as a child) and at other times they take the form “Dad, explain NAMA to me in simple terms” or “How could a cloned cow’s milk be harmful when it’s genetically identical to the healthily lactating beast, whence it came?” In matters political we disagree almost as a rule but there is a certain reserved pride in the unreasonable poetry of his Burkean perspective that appeals privately to me in spite of my liberal tendencies. In May I spent a week in London gaining work experience with the “comment is free” website of the Guardian. In an endless, gleaming open-plan newsroom with TV screens hanging at every corner and Skynews always on silent, the images of pomp and ceremony accompanying the Queen on her errands were unanimously ridiculed. A young editor came in bleary-eyed one morning to exclaim that the previous night, she had met with “Cambridge” graduates and it was “intolerable”. Newsroom talk was in the vein of “crazy anti abortionists” and “religious fanatics”. It was very coffee machines and carrot cake – a happening, progressive place. Now don’t get me wrong. In broad terms, I stand for pretty much everything the Guardian does. Gay rights, social justice, religious freedom, the right to non- belief and women’s freedom of choice. But in that small section of the newsroom, I sensed a scorn for those of a different perspective or vintage, which made me quite uncomfortable. Perhaps the assumption of an egalitarian sensitivity in my idea of ‘liberalism’ is flawed and has little or nothing to do with its politics. Perhaps the build-up of resentment at being treated with less than indifference by my ‘boss’ fuelled in me an empathy for those flawed institutions of antiquity that were at one time well-intended. Maybe I was a bit bitter that nobody ever told me I could take a lunch break or asked me whether I’d like to join them, or asked me where I was from, or how the hostel I was staying at down the road was treating me. Maybe it made me worry that common courtesy has become conservative. Maybe I’ll ask my dad.
“Dad, Can I be a Liberal with a Conservative Mindset?”