Why Can’t We All Work Together?

Why Can’t We All Work Together?

You often hear non-political folk ask the question about a Council.  Why do they argue all the time?  Why do they blame one another?  If they would all just work together then everything would be great! Etc etc etc.

Well first – let’s presume that all politicians want “the same thing.”  But what “the same thing” is can be hard to define.  I suppose “the same thing” probably means “whatever is best for the area they represent.”  But that’s the problem.  They do not agree on what is best.  So from the outset they cannot even agree on what is the ultimate goal without using such broad and meaningless terms as to make their agreement pointless.

So while different local politicians all get involved for mostly the right reasons – to try and help make things better – they profoundly disagree on what things are needed, and more importantly on how to go about achieving them.

At this point, in order to try and get to who is right and who is wrong, they enter into debate.  This is the “arguing” that some folk find childish.  It’s not childish at all, but if you go expecting some Disney-esque polite tea party then you might think it is.  This is the “clash of ideas”, of people with different views putting those ideas to debate in order to try and prove their point.  It is a vital part of our democracy which allows open challenge and debate to take place and be heard by those who wish to attend.

It’s not true that politicians never agree or work together though.  They do so all the time.  That’s what political parties are – groups of like-minded individuals working together.  Oddly enough though, the same people who want “all politicians to work together” seem not to like political parties.

Also, it’s quite common for politicians of different stripes to agree – it happens a lot.  You just don’t hear about it.  You hear about the disagreements and therefore presume that they must be the “norm.”

Finally, you only have the press and the public to blame for some of this.  It’s easy for an opposition politician to make some dramatic claim and get everybody shouting about it – even though it may be a complete fabrication, or only half-true, or deliberately misleading.  At this point, the accused can either (a) Say nothing and have people believe the lie.  Or (b) respond and explain why it’s wrong.  They usually choose (b) and are then accused or “bickering.”  If the public were less quick to believe everything the press told them, everything the other politicians lied about, every silly urban legend then it would all flow more easily.  Or, to put it more simply, if the public were as cynical about the negative stuff as they love to be about the positive stuff then most of these problems would resolve themselves.

Trust me on this – the very last thing you want is a Council full of politicians who all agree on everything and “work together.”  Because that would mean nobody is challenging any ideas, nobody is suggesting alternative courses, nobody is thinking.  A Council full of drone-like “yes men” is a recipe for disaster and leads nowhere good.  Bring on the debate, in all its shouty, finger-pointy, furious drama.  It’s evidence of the Clash of Ideas – which is much better than the absence of ideas.  Or the presence of one single, horrible idea that there is nobody to oppose.