There’s a trend these days, but maybe it’s always been like this, to dismiss anything contrary to your opinion as somehow unacceptable and the Tories seem to be particularly inclined this way, both at the County Council and nationally.
It was notable recently at the recent meeting of Full Council when the Tories moved a motion relating to action against anti-semitism. Perfectly reasonable but limited so the Lib Dems, supported by Labour, sought to widen it to ensure that other/all forms of discriminatory behaviour would be covered. The Tories didn’t like that and claimed that this action was political. So what if it was? Holding a different view is not wrong it’s just what it is, different. Isn’t that what politics is all about?
It’s happening at Westminster too. When Andy Burnham took a strong position to argue for the rights of Manchester Matt Hancock said he was being political. Yes of course he was but it’s his job to stick up for Manchester. The fact that he wanted more for Manchester than Matt Hancock and his colleagues were willing to give him was a perfectly rational position to take. Problem was he didn’t simply stand back and let Her Majesty’s Government have its own way without a fight. When it didn’t (get its own way that is) it did what bullies often do and that was to shout a bit louder and to claim that its victim was in some way not playing by the rules.
This week at the General Purposes Committee the practice moved on. It was discussing the challenges of setting a budget for 2021 when there’s a current forecast of a deficit of £50 million or thereabouts. The Lib Dems suggested, not unreasonably, that the Council consider raising council tax as a part of the solution to address it. The Tories didn’t like this, they’d made a big thing in recent years of not raising council tax and at the same time squeezing budgets. Fair enough it’s their policy but that doesn’t make such a contrary suggestion unacceptable. So how was it described? This time it was not ‘political’ which might have been forgiven, because it does reflect a difference in policy, but ‘disgusting’. The word was used not once but twice. Check the tape.
There was nothing disgusting about the suggestion. What the Tories meant is that in their mind it was disgusting for anyone to hold a different view. That makes you wonder what they think the role of a committee meeting is if it’s not to provide a forum for the debate and consideration of different views.
This behaviour is sadly widespread and characterises those for whom the attraction is power and not doing right by and for the people whom they should serve. You see it in President Trump and Prime Minister Johnson. Sadly you also see it in our own council leaders.