It’s time to start the healing process by reaching out to reasonable people on all sides – and marginalising the extremists – says Robert Aldridge
That’s Easter over and MPs will return to Westminster soon. We should have already been a month into Brexit by now if the Conservative government had kept its election pledge.
While I and my Lib Dem colleagues are delighted that we still have a glimmer of hope of achieving a further referendum and reversing the decision, my fear is that the Conservative government, aided and abetted by indecisive Labour, will continue to delay any decision.
Sadly, Conservative MPs seem to put hating each other as a higher priority than the future of the country and are still fighting like ferrets in a sack. They are more interested in jockeying for position in the next Tory leadership election than achieving a “strong and stable” solution for the country.
No wonder people are losing faith in the democratic system. The Leith Walk by-election in Edinburgh ten days ago showed a massive decline in voter turnout. Possibly a sign of things to come in the European elections and any others which may happen. And there is a real danger in that.
Democracy is too precious to be sacrificed on the altar of the personal ambitions of the entitled “posh boys” who believe it is their right to lead the country.
It is up to all of us involved in politics to up our game. At its best the political system, through debate, discussion and scrutiny, arrives at solutions which are both good for the country (and the city) and help unite it. At its worst, it encourages tribalism and name-calling, exaggerating and deepening division.
It’s time to start the healing process. You don’t do that by pandering to the extremists, but by reaching out to reasonable people on all sides. And you don’t do that, incidentally, by trying to start another tribal battle with a rerun of the independence referendum.
EU negotiators have shown remarkable maturity, acting like patient parents. The UK is like a truculent teenager shouting “it’s so unfair” without knowing quite what it wants.
I fear that the six-month extension will be wasted. The government can create every excuse – European elections, a leadership election, summer holidays. But we must not let them keep kicking the can down the road, allowing the atmosphere of anger and division to fester.
They need to agree the best deal they can negotiate as soon as possible and put their concrete proposal to the people to either confirm or reject. Rejection would be to stay as we are in the EU.
But we need to get on with it. There are businesses throughout the city which need the certainty to invest in the future. There are families with EU nationals as members who need to know where they stand. There are services throughout the city, dependent on the highly skilled EU workforce who need to guarantee they can still serve the public.
Most importantly we need to ensure that our friendly cosmopolitan European capital city can return to its focus on being the best place in Europe to live, work, study, visit and do business in. And we need to get back to the Scotland and UK which is so admired around the world for its tolerance, pragmatism, stability and warmth.
Robert Aldridge is the Lib Dem group leader at Edinburgh City Council