Friday, April 02, 2010

The Perils of Saying Something Nice

Last night I was in Oakham, Rutland to chair an election hustings organised by the Federation of Small Businesses, and a very lively event it was too. The panel consisted of local MP Alan Duncan, his Labour and LibDem opponents and two local businesspeople. The evening started on a controversial note when the UKIP candidate complained he had not been invited onto the panel. As soon as he opened his mouth, it became clear why. If I had allowed him to he would have sent the 100 strong audience to sleep within minutes.

Anyway, that's not the point of this post. The point is this. After the evening had ended, I tweeted that I had found the LibDem candidate, Grahame Hudson, very impressive but the Labour candidate less so. In fact, not at all. Immediately, I was bombarded by LibDems who presumed that I would therefore support Hudson over Alan Duncan (as if) and by one or two Conservatives who felt it was terrible of me to say anything nice about a political opponent.

Doesn't this just illustrate what's wrong with politics? In the hustings, both Alan and Grahame often agreed with each other. Indeed, to be fair the Labour guy, John Morgan, agreed with the other two very occasionally.

And there's nothing wrong with that. It doesn't mean anyone's about to defect. It doesn't mean you're betraying your own party when you find common cause with others. Just because you can admit to finding an opponent impressive, does not mean you are encouraging others to vote for them.

Vote Duncan!

Just to be clear!


Barnacle Bill said...

Unfortunately it is symptomatic of the pettiness that has crept into not only politics but also ordinary life under NuLabor.

Doctor Why said...

"Doesn't this just illustrate what's wrong with politics?"

You're so right, Iain. Too many bods in this game just can't seem to get their heads around ideas like common courtesy/good manners/credit where credit is due.

They are just so small-minded and petty.

Anonymous said...

The LibDems are always desparate for converts. Someone as high profile as Iain Dale would be greatly prized. I suspect you caused a few fainting fits.

But you are right. You only have to say nasty things about your political opponents if you are senior in Labour. The rest of us remain human.

Having said that, I find the tribalism that exists in the lower ranks of Labour to be worse than in the Libs or Tories.

Jim Jepps said...

Well said, apart from the vote Duncan bit obviously...


alan said...

I fear that some people on the LibDem side are either clutching at straws - or forget yesterday's date!

Michael Heaver said...

You say that Iain, but it is the Party Leadership's themselves that have largely created such a confrontational mentality.

I know for a fact Tories in Buckingham for example have been warned to shut their mouths or face disciplinary action from CCHQ if they praise Nigel Farage over John Bercow, even though there is no Tory candidate. No common ground allowed!

David said...

This says an awful lot about the state of perception and debate in Britain in 2010, and I'm not just talking about politics. This applies equally to the public in general.
It would be pretty bizarre if no common ground existed at all so of course there will be things people can agree with. Yet I can hear Littlejohn in my ear from last night's Question Time complaining that all politicians say much the same thing in their rush to occupy the centre ground and let's face it, this is sometimes true also.
So what's the answer? Perhaps far less bias generally on all sides and a far greater degree of maturity amongst politicians and public. It sometimes seems that Britain has given leave of its senses. I suspect you have both read it and agree with what I am trying to say but to get the picture read the marvellous London Times Obituary of the late Mr. Common Sense from some time ago.
'Goodbye to an Old Friend'
London Times Obituary of the late Mr. Common Sense

“Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:- Knowing when to come in out of the rain; why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn't always fair; and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an Aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense began losing the will to live as the churches became businesses;
and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his
wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Someone Else Is To Blame, and I'm A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing”.

David said...

You've probably heard this Iain but here's a topical Joke:

I asked my friend’s little son what he wanted to be when he grows up. He said he wanted to be Prime Minister some day.
Both his parents, Labour supporters, were standing there, so I asked him, “If you were Prime Minister what would be the first thing you would do?”
He replied, “I’d give food and houses to all the homeless people.”
His parents beamed, and said, “Welcome to the Labour Party!”

“Wow…what a worthy goal!” I told him. I continued, “But you don’t have to wait until you’re Prime Minister to do that. You can come over to my house, mow the lawn, pull weeds, sweep my drive and I’ll pay you £25. Then I’ll take you over to the supermarket where the homeless guy hangs out. You can give him the £25 to use toward food.”
He thought that over for a few seconds, then looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Why doesn’t the homeless guy come over and do the work and you can just pay him the £25?”
I smiled and said, “Welcome to the Conservative Party !”

Hythlodaeus said...

I'm in agreement with Mr Heaver. The parties need to stop talking about working together and actually demonstrate that they can work together; stop utterly rubbishing each other with negative campaigns. It doesn't do anyone any good and just increases party tribalism, which is a ridiculous throwback.

bunnco said...

Poor John Morgan stood in South Norfolk last time and had a similar effect at the hustings at Framingham Earl School.

But I seem to remember that his wife was standing for Labour elsewhere too - South West Norfolk if I remember correctly. I wonder what she's doing now?

Anonymous said...

We are talking about the LibDems, the likes who rule my Local Council as they the majority party. I had enough of them, and when they send me e-mail messages, I simply delete them. Only in our country we countenance Clegg as a leader and Cable as an economic saint! In a matter of a few minutes my local councillor faced different directions on matters of policies. A vote for Libdems is a vote for Labour and masochism!

Hasan said...

This is what happens when people treat political parties like football teams. No. There is no need to be militant about your political allegiances. Have a read:

charlie said...

I came out 55% UKIP (behind LD and Green). Considering that I couldn't disagree more strongly with their only policy, I think they're just weighted too heavily in general.

Rod said...

The next Liberal flyer that they issue will no doubt have Iain Dale supports liberals in this area.

mtrcricket said...

I am ChairMAN of a local Voluntary organisation. I am a Conservative Party member.
One of my fellow Trustees will be (by next Tuesday, I presume) the Labour candidate for a nearby constituency. We enjoy each others company, share many values and agree to disagree on political affiliation. If I don't like a fellow Tory then I don't associate with the person.
Is that not how interpersonal relationships should be?

mtrcricket said...

I am ChairMAN of a local Voluntary organisation. I am a Conservative Party member.
One of my fellow Trustees will be (by next Tuesday, I presume) the Labour candidate for a nearby constituency. We enjoy each others company, share many values and agree to disagree on political affiliation. If I don't like a fellow Tory then I don't associate with the person.
Is that not how interpersonal relationships should be?

Anonymous said...

The worrying bit about this is not in making politics divisive and generally unpleasant. It is that we are not open to learning from experience and one another. Instead we have to be right and can never admit to having got things wrong.
Two important areas where this applies.
First on the economy. Labour cannot admit that the financial regulations were ineffective during the boom years, nor that the recessions were abolished, merely postponed by the central banks. Gordon Brown is responsible for setting up a tripartite structure that was fundamentally flawed. He was also responsible for creating structural deficits through “only borrowing to invest”. To admit that he was wrong, would mean be blamed for recking the public finances for the next generation. The consequence is that the bankers carry the full blame. Anyone who does agree is siding with this greedy and unscrupulous minority.
Second, on climate change. Anyone who did not agree with the scientific consensus was considered delusional, a political extremist, or in the pay of the oil companies. Now that the science has been shown to be suspect and biased, there is no possibility of a climb down without loss of face.
This country will be poorer for a generation because those in power have built a false image of infallibility. The Conservatives should learn from this. You, Iain should keep on appreciating the good things in your opponents, as well as apologising when you get things wrong.

The King of Wrong said...

No good deed goes unpunished.

Wallenstein said...

If someone tells me they are a "proper" Labour or Tory, I often ask them to name 3 things they think the other party did well during their most recent stint in Govt.

Some people will flat-out say "there is literally nothing good that Nu Labour have ever done", and likewise "Thatcher was pure evil with zero positives".

These people's opinions can then safely be discarded as blindly partisan.

David said...

Well said 'manicbeancounter'

The King of Wrong said...

OK, I'll bite. What have NuLabour done that's good?

From what they've done, I can think of one thing that's directly benefitted me (Enterprise Act 2003), several that have directly harmed me (house price bubble, student fees, IR35, CRB checking, ubiquitous CCTV, alcohol duty rises, fuel duty rises, the smoking ban), a huge dollop of spending more to get the same level of public services, and two wars: one illegal and one unwinnable.

If that analysis makes me "blindly partisan", fair enough, I've no interest in ever talking to you again.

Ian said...

But you do want Hudson to win Iain- but actually its his brother Neil Hudson, the Tory candidate in Edinburgh South to win

Rutland Resident said...

As a resident of Oakham and one who attempted to serve residents on the town council for six months, I find if you express a view that does not follow the Old style local Tory Group you are stamped on. The very dated old style politicts is rife here in Oakham and Rutland. I also attended a very staged husting held in the church. Mr Duncan is very good at his job and the others failed to impress, Although I don't want to see people fighting it was clear Mr Duncan and Mr Hudson got on very well. I wonder if they had predicted the outcome of the election. The racist UKIP man was complaining he was not invited but was allowed to sit on the stage. I wish he had not but that would have not been democratic.