He arrives home after a monotonous day at the office. “Hello?” He calls out to his wife and two children. His voice flags into a silence, no one hears him. He proceeds directly to the kitchen to heat up his dinner in the microwave. Bangers and Mash, no gravy. “Why the hell does she never make any gravy?” he thinks. Standing, he crams his dinner into his mouth. He leaves his plate and cutlery on the sideboard, staring at it absent-mindedly. He walks into the living room and falls asleep in front of the Ten O’clock news.
The lead report is of the 2017 Labour Conference in Brighton. Images of the audience appear — fresh-faced, exuberant twenty-somethings with colours in their hair and charity wristbands, and an older, more mature collective — women wearing patterned dresses and the men are in dusty grey or brown suits and linen shirts, no ties. There is a noticeable lack of a certain ‘type’ of individual at this year’s conference: The Centrist Dad. Him.
Politics can be alienating. Occasionally, a particular demographic find themselves on the outskirts of partisan representation. In our climate, it is the figure of the Centrist Dad who is so abandoned. The Centrist Dad realises his views are incompatible with those of the ruling political parties and “cannot come to terms with the world, and politics, changing,” as Matt Zarb-Cousin says, a former Jeremy Corbyn spokesman. “They think they know better because they are older and wiser.”
The Centrist Dad is the self-appointed judge of political righteousness. Take heed Corbynites — make a challenge against the Centrist Dad and you shall be met with the full force of his principal weapon: twitter. The Centrist Dad knows no other way. He is not enough of a dissident to air his views in protest and neither is he the type who will openly disparage the opinions of others in a public forum. He is a coward, and as most cowards do, he qualifies his own perspectives by patronising the views of others, from a safe distance.
Guardian journalist Dawn Foster has observed the “snarkily aggressive” undertones to the Centrist Dad’s rhetoric, muddied by misogynistic put-downs that various journalists have experienced online. You are probably wrong about what you believe in before you have even debated with him. You are wrong by virtue of your gender, age or experience (or lack thereof), and you are certainly not to be seen exhibiting an affinity towards anything that the Centrist Dad himself does not see worth in.
For one, the Centrist Dad will say that you are not supposed to be inspired by politics. Politics is a source of distress. Politics is a reactive industry. The Centrist Dad allows himself to criticise others, but is incapable of proposing alternatives himself. Those who uphold the baton of hope and glory in the political domain are not to be taken seriously, unless you are talking of military interventionism. This, the Centrist Dad advocates with a hesitant pride. He believes in the necessity of war under certain conditions, but would never fire a shot himself.
The Centrist Dad emerged during the days of New Labour and believes in a thatcherite neo-liberal economic program and a pragmatic approach to social and domestic policy. He is a theoretician and is able to reel off facts and figures at ease, being as they are for him foundations on which to conceptualize policy. He was distraught when Chuka Umunna withdrew his application for the Labour leadership in 2015. He fell in love with Amber Rudd after her appearance in the general election leadership debates earlier this year. He finds himself as the man in the centre-ground of the political spectrum with no legitimate party to align himself to. As such, he becomes the impotent kicked out of the orgy, the snot-nosed misfit refused entry into the treehouse, the person that mainstream politics forgot. His time is up. It is for him, for whom the electoral bell tolls.
Back on the living room sofa, our Centrist Dad stirs in his sleep, slowly waking to the end of a report on a speech by John McDonnell about the re-nationalisation of various private industries. The Centrist Dad curses at the TV, the TV should feel shame for its transmission. He unlocks his smartphone, drafts an offensive tweet that contains stock insults and a shade of sarcasm, and scrolls down his followers to find a source to absorb his vitriol. After tweeting her, he throws his phone on the sofa and changes the channel to ‘Dave.’ He falls back asleep to Jeremy Clarkson’s sonorous tones, punctuated by a screaming Ferrari. Top Gear repeats shall be on till the morning. The Centrist Dad will hear Clarkson’s voice in his dreams.