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ConservativeHome's Columnists: Graeme Archer's Diary: Love, Actually

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Graeme Archer's Diary: Love, Actually

There’s a place for us. Somewhere, a place. For us. Hold my hand.

Hold my hand, and I’ll take you there. So, Saturday night, and like a few million others we’re agog at the X-factor final. I’m watching a nice young man from Wales singing a song from West Side Story, a song I’ve always been aware of, vaguely, without really, you know, focusing on it, and suddenly it transports me. It pierces me; whatever carapace I wear to get through life is pierced, is torn asunder, and I’m sat there with tears streaming down my face. Fully clothed and completely naked. George Orwell wrote about this, didn’t he, in Nineteen Eighty-Four. The potency of sentimental music.

Love, Actually was the name of the Richard Curtis film, which I gleefully nicked for the name of the first Platform piece which Tim kindly printed of mine. This is the last Column (didn’t you know?) [I told you not to mention that, and to write about politics, just for once – Ed] so I’ve re-nicked the title and, of course, the subject matter: the only “political” thing I really care about.

There have been twenty-six young people murdered so far this year in London. So far. That unconscious addition of “so far” is a telling example of Londoners’ expectations about crime. Not that it matters what time of year it is, but I find that the near-coincidence of the current death-toll with the countdown to Christmas has brought the horror home to me. Twenty-six families across London facing Christmas without their child.

Meantime we still have a Met chief who presided over the fatal shooting of an innocent Londoner on a tube train, but who refuses to take any institutional responsibility for it. Great message. Blair, of course, is kept in place by the Labour mayor, some of whose other cronies, we are now discovering (courtesy of some remarkable journalism from Andrew Gilligan in the Standard) appear to have siphoned of hundreds of thousands of pounds that were intended to give young people some sort of life-opportunity more attractive than street-crime. If the allegations against Livingstone’s cronies are proved (and there have been no convincing denials from his office) then there will be a direct line to be drawn: from the corruption over which he is accused of presiding, to the failure to empower local communities, to the ever-increasing cohort of dead London youth.

My fondest New Year political wish: a turbo-charged campaign from Boris. We don’t just need to defeat Livingstone in May: we need to chase him from office, covered in opprobrium.  Catharsis required.

Someone very clever once asked the question “Is it possible to be a Tory and an atheist?” in a Conservative Home debate. The consensus in the posted responses was “no”; and then someone else (it was the brilliant Sean Fear, actually) wrote “You can be a Tory atheist, but it’s hard to imagine such a person who is not respectful of the Christian tradition”. I always meant to get around to writing about this. Here goes.

I don’t believe in anything transcendental… except for the ghost in the machine. I think of machines as the systems, the processes, by which we manage inter-human interaction. One machine would be the tax credit system. Another machine would be marriage. And the ghost that dwells in the machine – a ghost to whose presence the centre-left appears to be blind – is humanity. To be as specific as I can: I believe that the presence of real human beings transforms any system, and is more important than the algorithm which was used to design the machine in the first place, an algorithm which was designed with only theoretical humans in mind. So I’m abusing “transcendental” here, but I’m looking for common ground with friends of faith. Prioritise an efficient algorithm over humanity, and you’re likely to be of the political left. Reverse the ordering, and I’d say that’s probably what makes you a Tory.

You might call the spirit which arises out of human interaction: God. God is the algebra of human existence; only God can know how to tweak the formulae to maximise happiness (and He didn’t, which is why this mathematician, one cold undergraduate afternoon in Glasgow, became an atheist). Atheists might call the unknowable algebra: humanity. I suspect we’re talking about the same thing.

For various obvious reasons, marriage was on my mind a lot this year. My speech at our civil partnership ceremony dwelt on this (even on the big day, I was pontificating about politics [It made a refreshing change – Ed]). Keith and I had been hyper-aware that we didn’t want to offend our friends who have faith, and given that the whole civil partnership thing was quite new, we’d shied away from using the m-word, and invited people to our “civil union”. After we sent out our invites, though, I had a night out with a couple of friends, one of whom got really annoyed with me, and queried our careful use of language, and who finally snapped at me For ****’s sake Graeme, you’re getting married, why don’t you say so? Such language from such a brilliant scientist.

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