I read on other conservative websites that the clapping lark is now getting out of hand. It might have been justified first time round, just about, but now we are into North Korean territory. True conservatives, who value liberty, I learn, will not descend to this infantile sheep-like group-thinking sloganizing mind-manipulating Stasi Maoist NHS-worshipping emotive nonsense. Nor will they submit to the emotional blackmail of risking being ‘fingered’ as the only person in the street who did not clap, a path that can only end in the denouncing of neighbours and family to the security police, and a totalitarian state. Some boast that nobody in their street, or even their village, is clapping. Take that.
Yet I shall continue to clap and thereby risk our collective descent into totalitarianism. Why? It’s simple. Because everyone else is doing it, that is, the ordinary and, to be sure, simple-minded folk who live on my street. Why are they doing it? Because these simple-minded credulous folk – builders, nurses, teachers, police, firefighters, shop workers and the like (higher status professionals, intellectuals and artists live elsewhere) – want to show their appreciation of those who are putting their lives at risk treating victims of the virus in often very difficult conditions, and because it seems the gesture is appreciated by those NHS staff.
But there is something else. It struck me the first time when I was dragged down from my study by my wife to join in. There was the sudden realisation, the powerful sense, of being part of a community. Of, dare I say it, all being in it together. Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that we have recaptured, even if is a pale reflection of the original, something of that old wartime spirit. I tuned into the radio afterwards and listened to Ian Dale speak to John McDonnell. McDonnell, who had just come in from the street, could not speak because he was so moved. And neither could Dale. Another memorable moment. And I warmed to John McDonnell, who despite all else is a Londoner, the only politician who gives a straight answer, and a decent man, as I found when I lived and worked in his constituency.
Of course, I did not want to be ‘fingered’ as a non-clapper either. Or pilloried by my wife on social media. But perhaps there is a trade-off here too. It does matter what other people think of you, and it’s right that you should care what they think. There may even be times to keep to yourself what you really think. Perhaps it is just a matter of civility.
Yes, community does matter, and it should matter to conservatives too.