Personally I have always felt that people should have no hesitation in dropping any tribal loyalties or long standing judgements when circumstances change. No one is right all the time and equally no one is always in the wrong and we should always be constantly re-evaluating what we think and trying to learn from all sources including those who normally disagree with us.
For generations politics around the world has worked on the basis of organised tribes that attract loyal supporters. Those loyalties are now rapidly falling away. In country after country people are voting in ways no one expected and looking for people who are non conventional.
One of the main reasons for this is a deep disenchantment with the way the media likes to work. The second a politician starts to say anything the modern interviewer interrupts with a challenge desperate to find some small chink in the armour. If the politician says anything interesting and unconventional, disagrees with the party line, or gives any impression of exploring an early untested idea or changing their mind on an issue they are attacked furiously. The same is true if they make the smallest admission that someone from another tribe has said or done something sensible. This is the exact opposite of what we need and what people actually like.
No politician agrees with everything that their own party says in its manifesto. No politician ought to think everything said by the other side is wrongheaded and stupid. Only someone with no critical faculties or curiosity about the world could possibly do so.
Indeed unless a person standing for office is prepared to think for themselves, question every policy and change their minds when new evidence comes along then what use are they? There is no value in static thought that refuses to change when the world changes or which refuses to look for what is changing and to learn new things. A politician is only any use if they are actually quite good at spotting what is happening next and can explain to people what needs to be done to adapt and change in response to that change.
I do not mean by this that having no convictions is admirable. What I believe is that your convictions should be built up over time on the basis of the things you've seen, experienced or read but you should always be ready to change if past experience proves false. If new things happen the broad principles you have developed over a lifetime of observation are likely to remain intact but the things you think are most important need to change.
On this score I readily admit that I have changed a lot of my opinions and intend to do so again. I hold to a core set of beliefs that freedom, equality and community are the things I most value. As a result I spent my career trying to improve the education of people in working class communities who wouldn't automatically succeed. I thought that was the best way I could make a difference.
These days my interests have changed significantly. I now worry far more about the things that are happening to our environment than I do about any other issue. I still think freedom and equality are important and need defending and promoting afresh for every new generation. Indeed I have never known those things to be more under attack than they are at the moment.
I do, however, think it is possible to lose battles on those issues in one decade and win those battles back further down the line when young people realise quite how damaging the loss of their liberties and their safety nets are.
When it comes to the battle for the environment I don't think we have the same luxury of time. To me the evidence is overwhelming that we have done huge damage to the planet and that we are running out of time to adopt new ways of living. The arctic ice cap is retreating at record speed, the Great Barrier Reef is bleaching itself to death, plastic waste has spread across the entire ocean, we are drenching our soils with pesticides that haven't been properly tested and we are powering the increasing consumption of 7 billion people by digging up fossils and burning them. These are not sideline issues of no consequence for the future. They represent gambles with the future of every living thing on the planet and all the evidence suggests the damage done will be enormous and will last for a very long time.
The good news is that there are excellent opportunities out there - including excellent business opportunities - to fix some of the biggest problems quite quickly. The other bit of good news is that people across the world have collaborated successfully in the past to solve environmental problems such as the CFCs and the hole in the ozone layer.
The technology of green energy and of energy storage and conservation and of low energy products is now reaching the tipping point where an unstoppable wave of innovation looks like it is going to break upon us with all the force of personal computers or mobile phones.
In these circumstances I have steadily changed my mind over the most important issue to such an extent that I now believe the number one issue is the environment. Get right our involvement and leadership of this next phase of technology and the UK and the planet can have a very promising future. Give way to reaction and try and run the country off fracked fossil fuels and the UK is almost certain to head downhill.
That is why I am standing for the Greens at the General Election. The party has plenty of weaknesses and I could name plenty of its over detailed policies that I disagree with. But it is full of good decent people who have identified and understood the biggest challenge we are facing right now. Even if we don't win a single seat the chance to make sure the electorate hears their viewpoint will have been well worth the effort. A lot of other people from other parties will be standing with equally sincere convictions.
Let's hope whoever gets elected is prepared to take a long hard look at the evidence and act seriously on the Science!