I’m fed up being defined just as a Remainer or not a ‘yesser’ – Robert Aldridge
We need to reset our political norms away from binary shouting matches to seek areas of agreement and take action, writes Robert Aldridge.
Don’t you love the pantomime season? That’s Brexit done. Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is! Whatever happens there will be months or years of negotiating our future relationship with the EU. Happy days!
With the general election now over, it would be great if we could move to an extended season of goodwill, and even – and I know this might be controversial – of listening to one another. The election campaign was one of the most bad-tempered and deliberately misleading for many years. There was a lot of shouting and very little listening, and almost no genuine political debate.
The attempt by some political parties to peddle deliberate lies when faced with facts has been the most dangerous development, particularly through social media. In the period of calm after the election we need to find a proper means of ensuring that in future voters are given information which is factually correct so that they can make the best-informed decisions before casting their vote.
It shows an arrogant contempt for voters to try to dupe us into giving a vote to a party, rather than persuading us on the basis of sound argument backed up by facts. Most political issues are complicated. They deserve debate around the pros and cons so that people can make a fully informed decision on where they stand.
Instead we have been faced with “debates” which are a series of soundbites shouted at one another and no real engagement with the issues.
No party has all the answers
The two referendums held in Scotland have led to a very divided country. I’m fed up with being defined by people as “a remainer” or not a “yesser”, as if that was all that mattered. I’m equally an internationalist, environmentalist, civil libertarian and advocate for social justice, minority rights and, of course, passionately pro-Edinburgh and the Drum Brae-Gyle area in particular.
So my plea for the New Year is that we try to reset our political norms away from simplistic binary shouting matches and start to really debate the difficult issues, seek areas of agreement and take action. There are very important matters to be dealt with here in Edinburgh on which no single party has a monopoly of the answers – climate change, poverty, harassment of minorities, care for our more vulnerable citizens and so on. And there is too little money to do all we want to.
Difficult decisions will be made in the council’s next budget which will have a serious impact on all of these. So let’s have an informed debate, listening to one another in the spirit of the season of goodwill.
They say pride comes before a fall. In my case literally. Basking in the warmth of having received the Scottish Councillor of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award one day, the next evening I was lying sprawled flat on my face in a garden in Clermiston, leaflets scattered over the garden, skinned knees, scuffed hands and specs hanging in a rosebush. Yes, that is the bedrock of our democracy – keeping politicians with their feet (or in my case knees) firmly on the ground, and contemplating the need for a law against hidden half steps and December elections.
As I wish you all a very happy Christmas and prosperous New Year, can I thank Edinburgh schools’ musicians who got my Christmas off to a fantastic start at the annual Childline concert. Edinburgh has some superbly talented young musicians, and an excellent Instrumental Music Service. Their hard work and professionalism and sheer joy in performing is infectious. Let’s hope that spirit is reflected in our politics in the New Year.
Robert Aldridge is the Lib Dem group leader at Edinburgh City Council