Can you imagine Norman Tebbit, Simon Heffer, Nigel Farage and Peter Hitchens indulging in a group hug? No? Too macho? Okay, let’s feminise it. How about Margaret Thatcher, Ann Widdecombe, Theresa May and Baroness Trumpington of Sandwich? Still can’t quite see it? Why on earth not? Is it only the lefty sisterhood that shows their love for one another? Do they all embrace and kiss cheeks in private, or is just a demonstration of socialist solidarity for the TV cameras?
Apparently, there’s a ‘right wing threat to Britain‘. Nick Clegg is warning that David Cameron, Nigel Farage and Nigel Dodds might
hug forge a ‘Blukip’ alliance of the Conservatives, Ukip and the DUP. “It is a right wing alliance that brings together people who don’t believe in climate change; who reject gay rights; who want the death penalty back; and people who want to scrap human rights legislation and privatise our schools and hospitals,” Clegg spouts. No love lost there, then. But Dave and Nick wouldn’t hug anyway.
Unlike the cringe-inducing lefty hugging sisterhood, right-wing women give homey handshakes. Socialist feminists might all wear progressive petticoats, but there’s nothing sissy about their syndicate. United by their love for state ownership, central planning and absolute equality, they manifest it horizontally relationally: there is community. But the Right is fractured and fragmented into Burkean little platoons. In this touchy-feely age of androgyny, passion and sentiment, couldn’t those who support individualism and competition show a bit more love instead of spitting in eyes, shredding reputations and tearing strips off each other’s conviction? Or are cuddles and snuggles restricted to statists? Do you have to support generous welfare, free childcare and higher NHS spending before you can get a hug? Or is it that Trident, the economy, immigration and privatisation aren’t conducive to clasps of affection?
So it’s doves left; hawks right. Liberals and Socialists are enlightened and expressively free; Conservatives and are narrow, sceptical and insular. Of course, the impulse to show public affection is inhibited by social convention and egoistic preservation, but the drapery of life changes and allegiance to the self breeds suspicion. ‘Greet one another with a holy kiss‘, say the apostles Peter (1Pt 5:14) and Paul (Rom 16:16; 2Cor 13:12; 1Thess 5:26). That’s one exhortation which the British habitually sidestep, quite literally. Except, it seems, for the lefty sisterhood.
Bound by its duties and centuries of rationalism, the British Right will probably never hug one another literally. But how about a bit of common decency, courtesy, honour and mutual respect between the fractious little platoons? Why not just talk occasionally? What is wrong with dialogues of exploration? Where is the weakness in admitting ignorance? Doesn’t iron sharpen iron? Isn’t that a conservative way? Could it not uncover the wisdom latent in different attitudes and aspects? Might it thereby forge better policy, strengthen identity and benefit society? Or is that the sole preserve of sisters doing it for themselves in pursuit of human perfectibility?
‘And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?‘ (Mt 5:47).