“Politics is a life we choose because we think we can do some good” – Kezia Dugdale, 25th April 2017
Today the Scottish Parliament debated the cuts to Child Tax Credits being imposed by Westminster. This necessarily centered much of the debate around certain exceptions to those cuts, in particular the so-called Rape Clause. This article isn’t about that Clause in particular. That must be for others. If you want, you can watch the entire debate below
Instead I want to particularly highlight Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s speech (from 26:20 above or here). Please watch it in the context of that debate before continuing.
Scottish politics is becoming increasingly polarised but sometimes we’re reminded that we don’t always disagree on what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. Today, Dugdale reminded me of that. This may be a cynical and untrusting age but it still holds that Politics is at its absolute best when conviction shines through. It should be applauded when it does.
On issues like today, we can stand in complete agreement. The cuts to Child Tax Credits are wrong, the exceptions are wrong and trying to pass the blame for the policy on to the Scottish Government as theirs to “mitigate” is wrong.
In other issues, we may see the same way on the problem but differ on the solution. Compromise politics should be the order of such things and by them we should find a collegiate way forward.
Today was a reminder that even when such differences occur we can’t let ourselves be blinded by them and to use them to simply demonise our opponents as the source of all that is wrong in the world. We choose the life of politics because we think we can do some good in the world. It does us well to consider that when faced with our opponents and even when we self-examine our own policies. What good do they do in the world and what good are they supposed to achieve. Maybe when we understand that, we’ll better understand ourselves and each other. Maybe then we’ll find those solutions. And maybe we’ll do some good in the world.
Occasionally, we’ll differ on whether or not there IS a problem at all. This is where the discussion gets more difficult and this is where we are with the Conservatives today on this particular issue. The cuts and the Rape Clause aren’t in-and-of themselves problems to the Conservatives, but are a solution to their version of the problem (ostensibly, to “pay down our debts”, although, from my own point of view a relatively cursory examination of “Austerity” as a means to do that shows up the evident flaws in the logic). It will be harder to find a compromise solution which will please them (not least because their “suggestion” that the Scottish Government subsidise the cuts would have to be paid for by cuts elsewhere or by tax rises, both of which the Tories would no doubt also oppose). It will be harder even to get to the position of discussing compromise because we could spend all of our energy just trying to find out what they think the problem they’re solving actually is. Without that, we’d just be arguing at cross-purposes and making a lot of noise without meaning.
So instead I’d like to better understand my opponents. I’d like them to tell me what good they think they are bringing into the world with these cuts. I’d like them to tell me what good they think we who oppose it are bringing. I’d like them to try to better understand why we choose the life of politics and why we stand where we do within it.
And I’d like all of us to try to do the same with everything else we do in this life of politics we chose.