• 19 May - 25 May, 2018
  • Shahed Sadullah
  • London Eye

One wonders sometimes how the Conservative Party enjoys the sort of unmitigated support it seems to have, never mind the fact that almost nothing it does appears to have widespread public support. The austerity measures, the measures always favouring the rich against the poor, the hounding of the most important government department – no, not the army but the National Health Service or NHS, and even Brexit where the almost unanimous opinion seems to be that the government is making a right royal mess of things. Yet, in spite of all this, its popularity is at dead par with that of Labour, both standing at 40 per cent.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May is applauded by Conservative Party members of Parliament

The Conservative Party has been often dubbed by its opponents and critics as the nasty party for its long record, starting from the corn laws of the mid nineteenth century, during which it has shown on more occasions than one its propensity to back the rich against the poor, including the current government whose savage cuts in the NHS have affected mostly those who cannot go in for private health insurance and whose tax ‘reforms’ have also given big dollops of gravy to the rich.

Perhaps in some ways, Britain can be a strange country. Things that would outrage us seem to only cause surprise and often not even that. Have a look at this story.

A woman had what in this country counts as a ‘steady relationship’, having been with the same man for the better part of four years. The couple were even expecting their first child. So one weekend she went with her husband to her parents in law and as the foursome were settling down, the woman dropped her drink and broke the glass. This, incidentally, was not the first time she had gone to visit her parents in law, having done so quite often during the four years of her relationship and believed that she had quite a good relationship with them. In keeping with her view of the quality of that relationship, the broken glass was just shrugged as ‘no big deal’ and she thought, as perhaps she was perfectly entitled to do, that that was that and the worse thing to come of it was a bit of embarrassment.

Imagine her surprise when a few days later she received an email from her father in law casually telling her that she could just transfer the sum of £156 for the broken glass, or indeed purchase the same online and send it to them. Now Britain is an expensive country, granted, but still £156 is a bit steep for one glass. There are not many wine glasses that can cost as much as that.

At first the woman thought it was a joke, but pretty soon she realised that was not the case and the dear parents in law were in dead earnest, when a few days later they sent her a reminder asking whether she had decided to get them a replacement glass or to reimburse them. Given also the fact that the parents in law were pretty well off while she and her husband were struggling as most young couples are, this sounded even pettier – perhaps even ‘nasty’.

It is not known how the matter ended, but the woman did decide to put the entire episode on a website and what is surprising is that not all the comments returned in her favour. There were those who said that if they were in someone else’s house and broke something they would always offer to replace it.

In matters of money especially, people can be quite ‘nasty’, much more so than in Pakistan especially if seen among people of equal financial standing. For example, one woman invited friends to a baby shower and asked them to contribute to cover the costs for it – ensuring her guests that she had done her best to keep the costs down and as such they would not be required to fork out more than £15 per head! It is not unknown for weddings to be organised on that basis – with guests being warned that they will be required to pay for the drinks they consume in addition to the fixed charge. In Pakistan, if guests were asked to do anything of the sort, one can see most of them dissolving in an apoplectic fit! Again, some people did side with the mother-to-be, thinking that what she had asked for was fairly reasonable.

Values certainly differ from culture to culture and what it takes time for some of us who may have come from a different culture to realise is the fact that this difference manifests itself in the political field as well, not only in the assessment of political and democratic norms, but also in assessing just how popular or unpopular a certain measure or political decision may be. It is just another aspect of emotions being taken out of public life. The problem is that if you keep taking emotions out in one sphere of life, it is at times difficult to stop them being taken out in other spheres of life such as family and human relationships, and that can be problematic.