My Country on Election Day
On this Election Day I have nothing to add about the political talk-fest beyond what I’ve already said in previous posts. But I will say this about my country: for all its faults and problems, I would rather be a citizen of the United Kingdom than of any other nation.
We may not be the best in the world at cricket. Our health service may be creaking at the seams. Our weather might be unpredictable. There are too many cars, perhaps too many people and not enough houses. Our scenery lacks the grandeur of other countries. Our food is of uneven quality, good in parts and awful in others. Our education system likewise. We have too much crime, too many drunks, too many self-righteous bureaucrats and too many greedy bankers. Our trains are packed, our roads are crowded. Our politicians can’t think beyond their noses. Our royal family is a benign irrelevance. Income inequality is at an all-time high and too many people are working for the minimum wage.
And yet we live in a country where by and large the rule of law prevails. Whose elections are largely fair and free. Where extremities of behaviour are only frowned upon when they impinge on the rights of others. Where you are unlikely to be shot in the street for expressing your opinion. Where men and women can use the law to complain about sexual prejudice, employment abuses and racial hatred. We have a generous welfare system that does a reasonable job of protecting the weak and needy. We are tolerant of social deviation, protest and individual difference. We have a press that is mainly free of political constraint. We make great films, TV music and art. We have an amazing diversity of culture for such a small country.
Is it any wonder then that so many people want to come and live among us?
We’d be foolish to think that we’re an exceptional nation. We’re better than some other nations in certain respects, worse in others. But if you look at the whole package, it’s pretty good, and it’ll take more than the current crop of politicians, whichever fails to lose heavily enough today, to screw it up beyond repair.
As I write this I’m sitting in my conservatory on a typical spring day – periods of glorious sunshine, and then clouds and chilling winds. The birds are singing and the trees have the rich green of the new season’s leaves. There are bluebells at the bottom of my garden and a robin that comes by every day to collect the dog’s discarded fur for its nest.
There are lots of people without the green and pleasant view that I enjoy, yet the same sights can be seen in urban parks and country meadows. I’m not sitting here in suburban complacency. I want us to fix the things that are broken, and make what’s mediocre excellent. I want us to show compassion and humanity towards Nepali earthquake victims, African boat people and Syrian refugees. I’m proud that our foreign aid budget is among the largest in the developed world.
I suppose this makes me in the eyes of many some kind of pie-in-the-sky liberal, thinking benign thoughts from my privileged nest. Maybe. But that’s what my family, my education and my country’s culture have instilled in me. And I’d rather be as I am than someone who advocates kicking out foreigners, persecuting gays, mutilating women and crushing diversity of every kind.
This is a country worth living in, and will remain so after the votes are counted in the next 48 hours. Whatever the result, I can’t imagine ever wanting to live anywhere else.