We should resist political tribalism – over Brexit or anything else – by disagreeing in an agreeable way and criticising the politicians we support if they deserve it, writes Helen Martin.
In just five days we expect to be balancing on the cliff edge between survival and destruction. Obviously, that’s the Remainer view. If somehow Brexit bashes through, we can pray for rapid independence. That’s the SNP view. I’m both now.
But the Brexit saga has also created a different political atmosphere which has affected both parties and supporters, a do-as-you’re-told system, a political war which we all have to pray will reverse once all this is over and behind us.
Open discussion and sharing differing opinions is something that is seen as grim betrayal, particularly in major Westminster parties. If those in the Cabinet or “ordinary” members disagree with the leader, Boris and the Tories expel them. If the same happens in Labour, Jeremy and the front bench ignore them. It’s all become even tougher than the traditional effect of the whips over the years.
Unfortunately, it’s also causing tribal battles among the electorate. Accepting that friends and neighbours voted differently was a normal attitude before Brexit came on the table. Go back a few decades and no one was expected to even declare how they voted. It was a private, personal decision, not something to be openly shared.
Now it’s almost impossible to avoid the Brexit conversation. It’s the top chat in the street and the biggest theme on Twitter. Most of us have become tribal, loyally allied to one party or another.
Useless fence-sitter and a lying buffoon
The problem is we are risking becoming as obedient and gagged as MPs. No Tory voters accept and admit that Boris is a lying buffoon. No Labour voters accept and confirm that Corbyn is a useless fence-sitter who wants to play Santa Claus.
The trend nowadays is that SNP supporters will rarely, or never, voice a criticism about SNP policies or anything else that even has absolutely nothing to do with Remain, independence or waving a Saltire.
Well, call me a weird SNP voter, but I believe Nicola Sturgeon in particular, likes to hear what her people think. Not about independence of course, all her voters want that. But about Scottish policies, laws and what is expected of the government.
Many Scottish people loathed the idea of the named-person, state-guardian plan that had the ability to over-rule and hold information about children back from their parents. Last month John Swinney finally scrapped the whole thing. If it wasn’t in the midst of the Brexit domination that abandonment would have been loudly applauded.
But now we face the SNP parking levy for workers or their employers who provide the space. Employers have paid for the space already. Some staff need to drive for their job, some have no timely public transport available, and some can’t afford the tax.
For businesses and especially individuals, this could be a hammering. If the levy was applied only to those earning twice or three times the average wage, fair enough. That’s a crit. Glasgow’s SNP Lord Provost spent around £8,000 of public funds on clothes, underwear, hairdos, specs and nail stuff. Why should any councillor or Lord Provost have that? Yet simply because she was SNP, few party members criticised her as they would if she had been Tory or Labour.
Democratic politics isn’t about smiling at everything a party does or being as blindly devoted as a football fan. No party’s always perfect. It’s about offering feedback, constructive criticism, debate and opinions, to the party in which you have faith, in my case the SNP.
I hope all that’s restored once Brexit and independence is history.