Saturday, 16 September 2017

Hubris and conceit

Labour's David Martin has called for Labour and the SNP to start working towards a coalition at the next Holyrood election in 2021.  It's hubris and it's horrendously conceited and here's why -

1.  It assumes that the SNP and Labour will be in a position to form a coalition.  The election is four years away and votes belong to people, not to parties.  Parties have to earn those votes at each and every election; we have no guarantees, no safe seats, no cast-in-concrete will of the people.  Politics always had some malleability but politics in Scotland is definitely fluid now, it's constantly shifting and politicians have to keep ahead of that.  It may be difficult to appreciate that when you're divorced from it in Brussels and Strasbourg and glad-handing your way around other similarly disconnected politicos but it's there.

2.  It shows contempt for the electorate.  If you want to form a coalition ahead of an election to fight the election on a joint ticket there's already a term for that, we call it a political party.  Members of political parties don't agree on everything, they agree on enough to stand on the same platform, distinct enough from other platforms to set them apart but not together on every jot and tittle of policy.  If Labour members want to suck it up and admit that the SNP is the better party they can apply for membership here -

3.  If supporters of the Labour party don't like what the SNP does / is doing / proposes then why would Labour candidates tell those supporters to suck it up and vote for them anyway, to put the SNP back into government to do the things that those supporters do not like?  Similarly, if SNP supporters don't like Labour's bawbaggery why would we suggest that Labour should get a say in forming our policy platform?

4.  Minority Government (from our limited experience of it) appears to be good - the party in government has to be braver but more willing to compromise, sharper in office but more attentive to the voices elsewhere.  Parties in opposition need to be constructive as well as oppositional, need to offer an alternative that could work rather than just be a soundbite.  All of that, along with the need to get a majority for votes in Parliament, leads to better and more meaningful debates in Parliament and makes Parliament stronger.  I appreciate that there is a view that a strong Parliament is not a good thing but it's not one I share.

5.  If parties agree a coalition ahead of an election then they are depriving the electors of choice - they have made their two parties into one party but without the strength of being one party.  Politicians have the right to stand on a collective platform but they don't have the right to pretend that it's a plurality.  If you're standing together you have to be in the same party.

6.  Politicians don't get to tell voters how to vote.  That horrible arrogance that says "who else can they vote for?" is no basis on which to seek to govern a country.  It also ignores the recent history of politics in Scotland where Labour dominance gave way to the SNP without much fanfare and where the Tories made a comeback without offering any substance.  Anyone who stands in the path of Scotland's voters these days, trying to direct them down one path or another, risks ending up like Wylie Coyote and wondering why.

There are a couple of other things from that article worth pointing out.  Firstly, it says that the SNP in Edinburgh and Labour in Cardiff working together proves an affinity.  Observing from Brussels and thinking that you're looking down on Scotland and Wales I can see how they might come to that view but it's wrong.  Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones working together is an example of two governments working together in common cause; not of the SNP and Labour being best mates.

Secondly, it suggests that the coalitions that are forced on councils show that the SNP and Labour love each other.  That's simply not true.  In the councils I have knowledge of they dislike each other and hate working together but do it because they have to and the distrust creates a stagnant culture where nothing can happen.  Our councils would be better served with minority administrations trying to make it work and needing support from all of their opposition.

Here's another thing to consider - politics needs politicians to oppose each other if it's to do any good.  The UK's terrorism legislation down the decades is a sparkling example of how bad law is created by a lack of opposition.  Only by having that constructive conflict do we ever move forward, enjoy new ideas and create new futures - there's almost a need to have a statutory curmudgeon so people remember there's an opposing view.  If politicians stop debating they are no longer politicians, if they seek coalitions four years ahead of the election they are clearly unable to engage in the debate or afraid of it or disconnected from it.

I appreciate it's hard if you've been an MEP and you're facing the end because of Brexit and you want to do something or be relevant at least once before you have to put on a fringe show at the Edinburgh Festival but piss off, the people will make their choices, individually and collectively, and that will be how we get a new government in 2021.  Any politician on either side of the fence who suggests there shouldn't be a fence doesn't understand their job.

Politics is about people's lives, it's not a game, and deciding to shake hands on a result you want to fix four years ahead of the vote suggests your interests are about yourself and trying to get some newspaper coverage while you can.  The careers of all MEPs from Scotland have a wee ticking clock beside them but that doesn't mean they have anything sensible to say.  Here's a wee question - how naive do you have to be to think that Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones working together as First Ministers means that Sturgeon wants the advice of Anas Sarwar?

There's always going to be someone who wails "why can't they work together?" but it's opposing that makes politics work and any politician who says "why can't we work together?" either knows that they've lost the public debate or is too stupid to understand politics.  We need the contrarians and the intellectuals who question, we need obstructionists and cleverclogs on all sides.  We really don't need simpletons in politics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with your comments and to be quite honest I baulked at the mere thought of the SNP SG taking ANY advice from Sarwar,Baillie , Kelly or any of the other HINGERS OAN, this proposal STINKS of not hubris or conceit but merely conceit ,it is the action of FEAR that once again their place at the TROUGH is under threat

As you have said the electorate needs opposition to effect better governance, opposition with an alternative view of a better way forward , liebour , tolies and libdums exist merely to rubbish ANYTHING put forward by the SNP SG they have never in the past 10 years to my knowledge put forward any proposal that enhances or betters the lives of Scottish citizens.

The recent GE all the parties named had no manifesto to better the lives of Scots all they had was a cacophony of NO REFERENDUM let's just leave it to the WASTEMONSTER MISFITS to govern Scotland ( badly ) no policies ,no aspirations ,no vision , just NAE REFERENDUM so IMHO NICOLA tell liebour to take a hike