Election reflections

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From campaign trails to optimistic tales: MP Simon Hoare has been considering why we see so little positivity in politics

I sit writing this article in the twilight zone of a local election campaign: I have been out and about across North Dorset, working alongside my Conservative colleagues to make our case to voters. As you read this we will know the results. As I write it I only have sore feet and crossed fingers.
I was struck by one particular conversation with a lady who asked me: ‘Why is politics so negative these days?’ We had a good conversation, and she told me I should write my next article on the issue – so here we go…
The simple answer is that it doesn’t have to be.
The media and, in particular, social media, set traps which we politicians seem very disposed to fall into. They let us find and exploit fault lines and differences. To motivate people by opposing things, to serve up a diet of ‘we don’t like / we want to stop / this makes us angry.’
However, most people are optimists. I certainly am. My glass is always half full. There is always a new challenge and opportunity to face. But it is not always easy when the social media trolls and others wait to pounce on one’s every word. The House of Commons allows itself to be portrayed almost solely through the bear pit prism of Prime Minister’s Questions. Of course there are passionate arguments and conflicting world views – but most of our Commons politics is actually done rather calmly and quietly.

Opportunity in every difficulty
My politics is founded on what good I can do, what positive change I can affect. My politics is not founded on frowns and a down-turned mouth. I am motivated by what I enjoy about politics and public service, not what I want to stop or am opposed to. I am happy when visiting a school, or having a school visit me in the Commons, when I hear our young people’s hopes for the future and the concern they give to today’s challenges. I am excited when I visit a business that is growing and employing local people – creating hope and opportunity. I am humbled and moved when I meet carers, foster parents or community activists seeking to make things just a little bit better.
I felt ecstatic when talking to the young family who were moving in when I was canvassing. I asked them why they had come to North Dorset and the simple reply was: ‘Because it’s a little bit of heaven isn’t it?’
My job satisfaction is derived from helping those who visit my advice surgery and we can find a solution or a route out of their problem. I go to the House of Commons not to jeer and demean but to find people who want to work together on issues.
I feel only positivity when I talk to farmers about the food they are producing, the trees and hedgerows they are planting and the real care they have for the environment. Spring, with all the new life and growth, seems to make the relevance of farming to our area even more acute than usual.

Rose-tinted specs
Reading that back I suspect you now think I am a cock-eyed, rose-coloured, spectacle-wearing optimist.
I am not. I am a realist.
I know full well the need to turbo-charge social mobility, that we have inequality and injustice in North Dorset; that rural life needs levelling up; that we have infrastructure and investment challenges.
I know all that. But, as I said to the lady at the top of the article, I really do not believe you can have any hope of making a positive contribution and delivering help and progress if you are consumed by negativity. I don’t get out of bed of a morning because I am opposed to something or someone – I get out of bed to help someone, to try to make things a bit better. People don’t want to vote against things; rather they want to vote for things.
Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter to the US Presidency on a simple slogan: “it’s morning in America”. That homespun phrase spoke of hope, and the promise new day brings; that we do well when looking ahead rather than backwards; when we embrace and shape change rather than, ostrich-like, seek to resist it by ignoring it. We can skulk in the dark of the cave or we can stride out to meet the dawn. I’m personally motivated to stride out to do, not to oppose.
Anyway that’s what I said to the lady. She told me to write it down. I have followed her instruction.

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