Yorkshire Post

Let’s talk about love to put passion in politics

- Ryan Shorthouse Ryan Shorthouse is the director of Bright Blue, a think tank campaignin­g for the modernisat­ion of the Conservati­ve Party.

POLITICS today lacks passion – and I mean the type of passion that makes you want to rip your shirt off and roar. No Churchill or Thatcher bellowing in defence of the free world. No Labour leader brazenly leading the fight against squalor and inequality. Other than a few notable exceptions, the public see bland bureaucrat­s.

This lifeless show is partly a product of an around-the-clock media machine hungry to trip up politician­s. But the inspiring goals of the last century – equality and freedom – no longer tug at the heartstrin­gs. Though there is more to be done, history has seen the biggest battles in the name of these gigantic and admirable ideals won, at least in this country. Wonderful progress, really. But many parliament­arians now have no major principles to fight for, concentrat­ing instead on climbing “the greasy pole”. Are there any great ideals that politician­s can battle for in the 21st century?

Yes, one, I think: love, the highest of human experience­s. Sad that politician­s cower from it, fearful of sounding zany in a public debate sterilised by technocrat­ic language.

But this profound emotion – familial, romantic or divine – glues society and drives economies. Hard work and entreprene­urialism; of course status and recognitio­n are motivation­s for these, but the biggest driver is love – to provide for our family, to make our parents proud.

Love motivates the millions who give frustratin­g and necessary care for relatives. Every minute of every day my granddad looked after my Nana, a proud and gregarious woman, deteriorat­ed and disabled by dementia. His devotion – alongside falling in love with my partner, Katy – taught me more than a book ever has. Values such as sticking together and caring deeply for others – values beyond personal success – are no longer abstract, eloquently written about, but lived and connected with. Love makes us much better people.

Britain faces several social problems in the decades ahead. Four, I think, are particular­ly under-appreciate­d and problemati­c: the increased sexualisat­ion of young people; the rise of loneliness; an ageing society and the relative decline in young people’s educationa­l levels. More people giving and experienci­ng love could help tackle all of these.

Such a profound feeling cannot be socially engineered, of course not. But politician­s should throw off the shackles, unbutton the collar, and talk – passionate­ly, poetically – about the importance of love,.

First, young people are soaked with sexual imagery as influentia­l celebritie­s flaunt their sexiness. Young people are internalis­ing that hotness matters first and foremost. Society rewards sexiness; Professor Catherine Hakim points to evidence that those with more “erotic capital” are more likely to have a higher income. Pornograph­y really has become normalised among young people, distorting attitudes towards sexual relations. Freud needs putting in his place: love, not sex, should be the main driver of human affairs.

Our culture strongly prizes independen­ce, fought hard for by feminists and other passionate campaigner­s. Indeed, it is vital for choice and control in our lives. But alone it is insufficie­nt, if there is no one to share the fruits of our labour with.

More people are working long hours, cutting into time for leisure and community, and living alone, with a 36 per cent rise in the number of people living alone aged 45 to 64 over the last decade. Loneliness is the ugly consequenc­e of an unbalanced focus on autonomy. We should campaign hard for the importance of relationsh­ips and marriage for human flourishin­g.

Third, a renowned and problemati­c phenomenon is our ageing population: recent estimates from the ONS show the number of state pensioners will rise by a third between 2012 and 2037.

Increased longevity is a remarkable achievemen­t in advanced societies; but relatives face having to provide more financial and practical support. People’s patience is being tested, their expectatio­ns in life revisited; strong dosages of love will continue to be needed.

Finally, we need to improve children’s education levels to ensure we have a highly-skilled workforce. It is parents, and their willingnes­s to engage in their child’s education from a very early age, which has the most impact on children’s developmen­t. What will make parents read more to their children and seek out the best possible school for their child? Love.

This politics of love can be new terrain, beyond the usual agendas of both the political left and right. It is inclusive and liberal, going beyond the exclusivit­y that social conservati­sm can be associated with. And it is more personal and tangible than the abstract solidarity trumpeted by the left.

Come on politician­s, let’s talk about love.

 ??  ?? FAMILY BOND: One of the main motivation­s of human behaviour is love.
FAMILY BOND: One of the main motivation­s of human behaviour is love.
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