5 Sep 2013

Civil politics

As I see it, democracy does not mean the majority shouting loudly so that no other voices can be heard. It also doesn’t mean trashing people rather than debating issues. All too often what we get in politics is far too much noise and bluster, too much interest in point scoring and no one listening at all. Commentators wonder at the lack of respect young people have for just about everything, at falling standards in manners and so forth, and do not seem to notice that at the very highest level shouting playground abuse at your opposite number is considered perfectly reasonable.

It is so important to listen to each other, to really hear the alternative perspectives, understand the issues and show respect to the people raising them. There are all kinds of things that worry, frighten and trouble people. Sometimes those fears are well founded and need responding to. Sometimes, it just means a proper explanation is called for. Mocking people, shouting them down or dismissing their opinions tends not to solve anything, and yet this is so often a normal approach in all things political.

Yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Question Time really gave me hope. In normal circumstances, the first PMQs after a Prime Minster loses an important vote, would be a time to bring out the knives. It would be a point scoring session, full of disrespect and attempts at humiliation. If you kick people when they are down, as policy, you aren’t going to get much willingness to step back over key issues, when mistakes have been made. It is human to make mistakes and we all do it. If our leaders are not allowed to acknowledge mistakes and step down from them gracefully, that can mean pushing further and further into horrendous error just to try and save face. No one wins that way, with all due reference to badger culls, fracking and austerity, to name a few obvious candidates.

Ed Miliband did not use yesterday’s opportunity to shower abuse on the Prime Minister. Instead, he took the much wiser, nobler decision to talk about the urgent need for diplomatic solutions to Syria. He put the issues before the opportunity to make political capital. In doing so, he recognised that the lives and deaths at stake here are far more important than a chance to get one over on someone.

One of the things I like about being a Green, is that I don’t have to go round opposing people for the sake of it. We believe in co-operation, in listening to each other and agreeing the way forwards as far as is humanly possible. One of the side effects is that when someone from another political party makes a good decision, we don’t have to invent excuses to rubbish them. We can give them the much deserved round of applause and get on with the needful work. Well done Ed Miliband, you made a good and honourable call there, and it is appreciated.

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