MP Chris Loder warns the swing to divisively extreme ideologies is eroding the potential for important and meaningful debate
We don’t have a Pride event in the Blackmore Vale as such, but there are many Pride events taking place in the South West region over the summer. These events bring attention to the identity of members of society who often feel under-represented.
Since I was elected in 2019, we have seen a whirlwind of identity politics through the mainstream media – that is, the politics and profile of a specific characteristic of an individual or group. It is often about gender, sexuality, race, nationality, religion or something else. What the media report and what we see and feel here in the Blackmore Vale are often very different, but nationally, I think awareness is at an all-time high.
In times past, the causes and campaigns that have been associated with identity have mostly been those that have looked to achieve equity for all. Fairness, equality and justice – to ensure that everyone is treated as equal, regardless of their difference – not for preference but for parity.
Increasingly though, the politics of identity have become less about achieving fairness (often because fairness has already been achieved) and more about forcing a view onto others, or to show that one group of society is better than another. What’s worse is that if a particular view is not mutually held, it now seems to warrant a relentless, personal attack in order to shut them down or to bully them into submission.
Identity and youth
The increasing politicisation of gender and sexuality has deeply concerned me, especially considering its impact on young people. When I was growing up, I didn’t want to be recognised as better than everyone else, I just wanted to be equal. I didn’t want to stand out for my difference, I wanted to be an equal part of my community and society. That is why I often find it so difficult to reconcile with the extreme and unpleasant campaigning which is now becoming the norm. This extreme politicisation in campaigning is eroding civilised debate about important matters. It is also permeating our schools – mostly about the ability of children to self-identify as a different gender.
For some schools, self-identity of children has become so prevalent that on a weekly basis, the school circulates a list of children who have self-identified as a different gender.
It seems that every week there are national headlines about children self-identifying their gender at school – without the knowledge of their parents or guardians. I think this raises fundamental questions around safeguarding, parental responsibility, and indeed the sources which are influencing the malleable minds of young people. Teachers now fear the consequences in this situation. That is not right, and I have made my petitions to the Education Minister for prompt action.
A destructive force
I once thought identity politics had a place for good, but it has now become so divisive that it is societally destructive. There is an increasing inability for rational and understanding debate. The race for one group of the population to be positioned in a better place than everyone else, which has permeated our online ecosystem, is now generating a dog-eat-dog type of society.
While it may seem a distant reality to readers in a quiet corner of Dorset, campaigning in the extreme – not just in this subject area, but others too – is having a detrimental impact on our democracy. It places undue importance on one specific characteristic or cause in an effort to dominate the political agenda.
I sincerely hope that we can move forward in a way that means this divisiveness calms and that we can have meaningful conversations about difficult issues. If you have any thoughts or views on this issue, I would be very pleased to hear from you: email@example.com