As it happens, I know a lot about politics.
Not so much the who-currently-does-what-job and who-says-what in the latest manifesto. I won’t lie, I’m only average at that, at best.
My feeling is that I don’t need to know the specifics because my politics are in my blood. I have picked my tribe, and it will be my tribe until I die.
But I know a lot about the business of politics: about the slog of it, about how consuming it is, about how much time it demands, how much effort it takes, and what a thankless task it is.
That’s because I am surrounded by people who do politics. Politics is in my family. I know all about weekends spent knocking on doors, about nights spent at mundane meetings, about fund-raising events that eat chunks of money, about election periods that devour precious holiday time.
I don’t do any of that myself, because too often I come away thinking that democracy is wasted on some of the people.
So come an election time I deliver a few leaflets, and even this is awful – because so many people feel it is fine to be nasty to a person giving up their time to deliver a message about making the world a better place.
Let me give you a few examples: even though I am careful to always shut the gate, never walk on the grass and always push the leaflet all the way through the letterbox, I have had:
Someone open their door, screw up my leaflet and throw it back at me.
Someone tell in menacing tones “not to put that (expletive deleted) rubbish through my door”
Someone open their bedroom window to order me off the property
Someone imperiously wave me away before I could get as far as the doorstep.
Someone put their fierce dog into the garden to growl menacingly so that I couldn’t even open the garden gate
Is there any wonder I don’t do it very often? And as for knocking on a door, I wouldn’t dream of asking for more abuse.
Because all politicians, at local and national level, are routinely despised, denigrated and demonised.
For some reason, it is not only okay but actually considered to be the right thing to do to be rude and hostile to anyone in the business of politics. Everyone thinks they are Jeremy Paxman, who is a rude man and a poor interviewer, I think.
But I think those people who say: “They’re all the same, all in it for themselves” say that to cover up the fact they are too ignorant and idle to form a valid opinion about anything. Remember Ed Miliband’s mauling at the hands of a Leeds audience before the general election? It was nasty, not clever.
The hostility is a thousand times worse for women politicians who can expect threats and abuse to form a constant backdrop to their life, mostly from men not fit to shine their shoes.
Jo Cox MP was genuinely caring and genuinely lovely. My sister can’t stop crying. When Jo was a student she spent her holidays working at a Leeds factory, cheerfully fetching and carrying for my sister and others in the laboratory, and telling them funny stories about how a Yorkshire girl from an ordinary family sometimes struggled to get to grips with life at elitist Cambridge.
Yet 20 years later when this same lovely woman entered Parliament she became the target of vile threats. And then she was butchered in the street.
Today would have been her 42nd birthday and in one of those little coincidences it’s my birthday too. I wish she was on the planet celebrating it.
My point is this: I’ve said before that being a politician is a hard job; that MPs are like everyone else: some are good, most are doing their best and a few are poor.
It sounded hopelessly naive, and I knew it. But lots of people are saying it now, so maybe finally, finally, something will change. Maybe.