IT’S a well-known phenomenon that as people age they tend to become more conservative. As the aphorism goes, if you’re not Left-wing when you’re 20, you have no heart; if you’re still Left-wing when you’re 40, you have no head.
But speaking to friends who’ve noticed this change in themselves, I think there’s more going on here than a shift from youthful emotionalism to mature, hard-headed logic.
TCW readers know there’s nothing wrong with being on the Right. But you may have friends who worry that their own Rightwards slide is an alarming sign of ageing, like ear hair or back pain. To ease their suffering, I offer these words comfort.
Here are five factors that might explain the Rightwards drift.
1. The Labour Party has become unrecognisable.
This is not just your imagination. Of the 11 elections since Harold Wilson stood down, Labour has won only three, all of them under Tony Blair.
So if you wonder why the modern Labour Party doesn’t inspire you as it did in the heady days of your Cool Britannia youth, you are not alone.
Jeremy Corbyn’s flaws are legion. Even his supporters would agree that he often seemed to take the side of our country’s enemies, presided over an increase in anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and was widely mistrusted with the country’s finances.
Yes, the party is now under new management. But which Keir Starmer are we talking about? The one who loves the flag, or who knelt for the Marxist, anti-capitalist, anti-police, anti-family organisation BLM? The one who speaks of his parents’ pride at his knighthood, or who boasted of wanting to abolish the Royal Family?
The confusion arises from the awkward position in which Starmer finds himself – Labour’s core supporters to his left, the majority of the country to his right.
So maybe you’re not the problem. What used to be your natural political home drifted too far left under Corbyn, fell into a quagmire and remains stuck there.
2. You are unpersuaded by the new shibboleths of the Left.
You believe in a more equal society, but that’s no longer enough for the modern Left, whose new articles of faith are beginning to test your patience, if not your sanity. How on board are you with the new dogma? Say to yourself either ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ to each of the following.
If Bill the bodybuilder, who has a huge penis and a bushy beard, claims to be a woman, then he is one. He has every right to be treated as such under the law. This includes access to all-female spaces such as women’s changing rooms and prisons, and the right to compete in women’s contact sports.
We live in a tyrannical patriarchy: Women are oppressed and masculinity is toxic.
Britain is a racist country. More time – even more time – should be spent in schools teaching children this fact.
If you can’t bring yourself to agree with all of these, maybe the Left is no longer the place for you. And, to quote the great Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting: It’s not your fault.
3. The Left speaks to the part of you that is weakest.
This has become more apparent during Covid, when we’ve had to draw upon our reserves of strength and resilience. While the Tory government has frightened us into staying home, the Left has berated it for not going far enough.
I believe in the virtues of a balanced diet, and though no longer a daily Guardian reader, I make a point of keeping my hand in.
But increasingly, the voices I hear from the nation’s Left-wing newssheet, as well as Labour MPs and activists, are as follows: Be afraid. And be ashamed, for you are guilty. Or, where you are not guilty, you are a victim and someone in power is to blame.
Compare that to the message from commentators on the Right: Pull yourself together. Have the courage to take some risks. Get back to work. Stop moaning. Take responsibility. And, oh yeah, don’t forget to have some fun.
The first voice can be seductive. It speaks to the confused and frightened child that cowers within us all. But is it the voice we should be listening to in these troubled times?
4. You no longer believe in goodies and baddies.
Now that you’re old enough to have seen more of human nature – your own and other people’s – you’ve outgrown the Manichean thinking of many on the Left.
No, you don’t seriously think that Boris Johnson is a Nazi. If you’re honest with yourself, you never really believed that he would sell the NHS to Donald Trump.
You’re uneasy with the predatory zeal of young Lefties like AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), who seem to want their opponents not just out-argued, but ruined.
Maybe it’s possible to retain some Left-wing principles – a desire for a more even distribution of wealth, for example – without thinking that everyone who takes a different view deserves to be hounded on Twitter until their life is destroyed.
But as the casualties of cancel culture mount ever higher, you feel uncomfortable, and unsafe, within what used to be your Left-wing political home.
5. You fear that the Left’s embrace of identity politics will warp your children’s personalities.
If you believe that men oppress women, that white and non-white people are enemies, that life is a struggle for dominance between groups according to gender, race or sexual orientation, how can such an attitude not bleed into your personal relationships? The personal, after all, is political.
Maybe this wouldn’t matter so much if you were still in your experimental twenties. But these days, especially if you have children, life is no longer a game.
You don’t want your sons to grow up ashamed of themselves. You don’t want your daughters to fear and loathe the male sex. Nor do you want black children to see themselves as victims and white children to be cast as oppressors.
You want your children to develop and retain their capacity to love. But those who have swallowed the politics of identity don’t talk about love. Because for them, life is a game of power.
So it’s not just that the Left has changed. You have too, and that, my friend, is no bad thing.