Gina Davidson: Strictly speaking, it’ll be no contest

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THERE are only six months until the next local elections . . . and they can’t pass quickly enough given the current state of the parties at the City Chambers.

The latest squabble between the Lib Dem and SNP coalition is like an episode of Strictly Come Dancing – without the intellect.

You can just imagine the stamping of feet, the bitching about who’s going to come out looking the best, and the public’s reaction to the fumbling, stumbling moves the administration continues to make. It’s just a shame we can’t phone and vote out Dawe et al on a Sunday night.

Quite why it was a surprise to anyone in the Lib Dem group that Steve Cardownie would refuse to back a plan to privatise council services is anyone’s guess. He is, after all, a man who has socialist roots, even if he dumped the Labour Party for nationalism a few years back in a quickstep that would make Anton du Beke proud.

More importantly he’s a man who likes to be liked – and he knows all too well that the Lib Dems are not long for this political realm come May 2. He’ll likely still be there, and he’ll want to get on with the council employees who have managed to keep their jobs. More than that, he’ll be hoping to get the council bling round his neck . . . the last thing he will want is to be known as the man who sacked the bin men.

But the Lib Dems should have been expecting a volte-face. After all, the SNP group did the same with the school closure programme back in 2007 when the coalition was in its infancy, and there’s been the uneasy nature of the relationship over the tram saga. Where was the Lib Dems’ political savvy? Backstage?

I can well believe that it wasn’t Councillor Cardownie’s intention to embarrass the Lib Dems with his group’s decision not to back the outsourcing of public services to the private sector. It was just his intention to make sure his name wasn’t associated with it.

So, we’ve six more months ahead of this coalition stuttering around like Nancy Dell’Olio attempting a pasa doble, each party trying desperately to prove it is taking the lead.

Then we’ve got the Labour group, which appears to have decided to take the moral high ground and be “disinterested” in the current administration, instead “focusing on putting forward positive ideas for the city”.

If only that could be believed. It’s like Craig Revel Horwood telling Russell Grant to be more manly. It ain’t going to happen.

Politics is too dirty for that – the more local, the nastier it can get. The Labour group will exploit the failings of the coalition, as will the Tories – and so they should, otherwise there’s little to differentiate between them.

And while being positive is great, no amount of positive mental attitude will help if your policies are too vague to explain. Labour will find getting its new “co-operative” message across will not be easy. The “Big Society” failed to chime with people, and the idea of co-ops delivering some public services will probably provoke a similar response.

When people are trying hard to find jobs, to keep jobs, to pay debts and keep a roof over their family’s head, the last thing on their mind is helping build a co-operative. But so far there’s no real flesh on the bones of that idea, and while Labour’s document “Moving Forward” says lots of nice things about apprenticeships, antisocial behaviour and rehashes the “bed tax” idea as a tourist tax, there’s nothing new in it. Nothing radical.

Nothing that will make the people of Edinburgh sit up and take notice. It needs a bit of flair to make it sound anything more than a collection of trite phrases.

People are fed up with councillors in this city. They’re fed up with a lack of leadership and vision – which at the moment is unforthcoming from any party. They want to be able to elect politicians who they can trust to drive the city forward, who will deliver the services they pay for and who won’t shirk responsibility, not just nice people who mean well but ultimately are rather ineffectual.

It all comes down, of course, to getting politically active. You gets what you votes for. And unfortunately Robbie Savage isn’t standing for election.

Trams silver lining

NEW figures reveal fewer shoppers in the city centre, and the tramworks are, of course, getting the blame.

While there’s never an excuse needed to have a pop at the disastrous mess of Princes Street thanks to the disastrous mess of the tram project, the disastrous mess of the UK economy must be having an impact too.

However, there’s always a silver lining to every black economic forecast. Staff at a house wares store in George Street told me they were delighted that the buses were back outside their door as the tills were ringing merrily – unlike festival time, when the closure of the Assembly Rooms meant a dearth of business. Who knew that cutting-edge Fringe comedy and Tupperware were aiming at the same market?

Slippery slope

GOOD to see philanthropy is alive and well in Edinburgh – a mystery hotelier has agreed to underwrite any losses at the festive ice rink this year. I just hope he doesn’t become even more mysterious when the bills come in . . .