Democracy thrives on disagreement. Dictatorship on intimidation – Robert Aldridge

Tom Gilzean was totally committed to getting things done for others. Our politicans would do well to follow his example. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Tom Gilzean was totally committed to getting things done for others. Our politicans would do well to follow his example. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Whichever party you support in the coming general election, make sure to vote for a politician who wants to make a difference, not one who wants to be somebody, and try to disagree agreeably, writes Robert Aldridge.

The sad death of that formidable fundraiser and true friend of the city of Edinburgh, Tom Gilzean, has hit us all hard. While our thoughts go out to his friends and family his loss will be felt across the city.

Cllr Robert Aldridge is the Lib Dem group leader at Edinburgh City Council

Cllr Robert Aldridge is the Lib Dem group leader at Edinburgh City Council

He was one of the finest examples of someone who was not interested in rewards for himself, but totally committed to getting things done for others. There are other unsung heroes across the city, working for the good of others. Tom was the most visible and will be sorely missed.

As we get more embroiled in the general election, we would all do well to remember Tom’s example. Politicians largely divide into those who want to be somebody and those who want to do something. As people decide who to support in the general election, I hope they will put trust in the people who are committed to doing things for the good of the citizens rather than their own career advancement, whatever their party.

I also hope that the disgraceful start to the election campaign, with all kinds of “fake news” and trickery being exposed will calm down. People deserve to hear good honest debate.

Of course, political parties will disagree and people feel strongly about topics. Whilst I am in favour of staying in both the EU and UK, others will disagree. But let’s do so with reasoned debate. Let’s tone down the anger and, on all sides, condemn the trolling and threats which our aspiring parliamentarians face. Democracy thrives on disagreement. Dictatorship thrives on intimidation. We would all do well to remember the difference.

One of the issues which generates most anger and passion is the constitution. It’s why we are having a general election. But it has always mystified me how people are more passionate about the constitution which they have little chance of affecting directly, rather than changing things over which they do have control.

The Lib Dem group on the council has always had a fundamental view that, at its core, the council should focus on getting the basics right: caring for people who are vulnerable, emptying bins, cleaning streets and mending roads, and ensuring our children get the best possible education. We are famous (or notorious) for our pavement politics, trying to make real improvements which affect people’s everyday lives, and trying to make it as easy as possible for people to do the right thing (like recycling).

That’s why we get animated about potholes, people not getting care packages quickly enough, or restrictions to the hours of recycling centres. It’s why we were open-mouthed at the recent SNP-Labour article calling on people to clear up fallen leaves, while at the same time charging them £25 for the brown bin to put the leaves in. Of course we should encourage community action, but charging people for the bin collection when they are doing their bit is simply wrong.

Who knows what the outcome of the general election will be, but most commentators suggest it is likely to be a hung parliament. If that is the case it will need genuine compromise and joint working across parties to run our country smoothly. Given that no political party – not even the Lib Dems – has a monopoly of good ideas, if there is genuine co-operation we could begin to reunite the country and return to the stability which most people want.

So let’s look forward to five weeks of robust but respectful debate and a parliament full of “doers” rather than “wannabes”.

Cllr Robert Aldridge is the Lib Dem group leader at Edinburgh City Council