Friday, December 18, 2015

One American trend that I really hope we don't follow.

For good or ill, where America goes Britain has often followed within twenty years. I really hope that one trend we do not follow in that way is the one highlighted in an excellent article by Tim Montgomerie on CAPX:

"The dirtiest word in American politics is compromise."

Tim charts the rise of political hatred and sectarianism over the past century and notes that reaching out to work with people on the other side of the political divide has increasingly become toxic for a politician's career. He notes how Marco Rubio, who is the person I would currently be supporting for US President if I were an American voter, has been attacked for his efforts to find bipartisan solutions to one of America's most difficult problems as one of the "Gang of Eight" consisting of four Republican and four Democrat senators.

Being involved in politics and attacking compromise is like being a roadbuilder and attacking Asphalt. Sometimes there is just no other way of getting anything done. It is a very common think in local government, and as we saw in the 2010 to 2015 parliament sometimes happens at national level too, that no party has an overall majority and the only way to deliver anything is to work with people who have different views. Of course that demands compromise. Demanding otherwise is a classic "stop the world, I want to get off" approach.

You can easily see the early signs of how a resistance to compromise such as Tim Montgomerie discerns in America could happen here. The anger and hostility which characterises some people in all parties but particularly the hard-line wings of the SNP, of UKIP and many of Jeremy Corbyn's supporters could easily spill over into that kind of problem.

And yet, I can also see signs that we may be able to resist it. Evert one of the recent successful Prime Ministers in this country - defining "successful" as being good enough at the job to have persuaded the electorate to re-elect them after they had already held the position for more than a year - has been a master of the art of compromise.

Yes, whatever else you say about them, both Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher were brilliant at compromising when they had to, often in a way which didn't make it obvious that they had. Maggie in particular was much more pragmatic for the vast majority of her time in office than the propaganda picture subsequently painted by both her opponents and supporters alike presented her as being.

David Cameron managed to hold a coalition government together for a full five-year parliament because he has the same skill. Although many of his worst enemies, particularly on the right, are the people who despise him for his willingness to compromise and make a deal when that is the only way to move forward, there is no doubt in my mind that the majority of the electorate approves of his ability to do this and it is one of the reasons they were more willing to send him back to Number Ten than to trust any of his rivals with the position.

To many voters in this country, a pragmatist is a much safer person to trust with your economic security than a true believer!

America is making a terrible rod for their own back if Tim is right and they are moving away from pragmatism, as I fear he may be. I hope we can resist the temptation, from whatever quarter, to do down the same road.

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