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Jane Devine: The daily business of party politics

Nothing is ever beyond or above party politics, because party politics is everything politicians do. Picture: PA

Nothing is ever beyond or above party politics, because party politics is everything politicians do. Picture: PA

  • by JANE DEVINE
 

WE SHOULDN’T play party politics with the NHS; we shouldn’t play party politics with the Royal Mail; we shouldn’t play party politics with education, older people, or tragedy.

Except, that’s exactly what each and every politician does and is doing every day. Nothing is ever beyond or above party politics, because party politics is everything politicians do.

“We shouldn’t play party politics” is an interesting phrase though, often quoted when there is a very serious problem to be solved and couched in a warning that “we shouldn’t”. It is used by politicians seeking to elevate themselves above the usual point-scoring that their peers are involved in; it is used by politicians on the outside of a crisis, believing it will pave the way for them to get in on the act; and it is used by politicians making a mess of something to try and stop the criticism. And don’t forget that the politicians accusing others of playing party politics, are never, ever guilty of the same charge.

Over the last few weeks, there have been many calls by politicians to politicians not to play party politics with Grangemouth or Govan. And while there is no doubt that there is true determination, empathy, drive and passion from a range of our politicians about the axe falling at Govan and the potential job losses at Grangemouth narrowly averted last month, it is a nonsense to say any one of the politicians involved was operating above party politics.

The world we live in is run by politicians, most of whom belong to a political party, so of course absolutely everything they do is entirely about party politics. All of them are playing it and it is patronising to the electorate to pretend otherwise.

We the electorate elected them on the basis of their party politics to do a job for us. We expect them to do that. But perhaps what politicians should remember is that sometimes party politics could be a good thing. If politicians used the ideologies of the parties they represent to contribute positively to a crisis or problem and didn’t just carp about who was doing the most, party politics could be useful.

Of course, that assumes that there are real party politics to play. As political parties move away from the ideologies that used to define them to a rhetoric of pleasing the people they need to cast the votes they want, perhaps those type of contributions are less possible. Perhaps bickering and squabbling and trying to position themselves above others is all they have left.

So, while politicians may wish us to believe that there is a land of milk and honey, a place above party politics where good things happen, the electorate are not that daft. We need politicians to just get on with the job they were elected to do in the arena they were elected to do it in and understand that the electorate know nothing is ever above party politics.

 

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