Nobody is allowed to get it wrong in politics and it’s destroying us all.
Here we all are then. Days away from a critical point in our country’s history and nothing about Brexit is clear. The F*!*K KNOWS have it. The nations future supply of essential resources, including food and medicine, hangs in the balance. Yet are the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition working together? From where I am sitting, they still seem to be taking every opportunity for some good old slinging of brown stuff and point scoring. As I watch PM questions, both leaders attempt to weave into their boastful claims, painful attempts at humour and cutting put downs, tomorrows tabloid sound bites. With delight they present ‘the evidence’ of each others failings. They relish in each others past 'mistakes'. I am sure I just heard one of them start with, “Your mama so fat !” All the while their respective hordes cheer them on to "fight, fight, fight”. And nobody blinks an eye at the irony of constantly referring to each other as 'honourable'.
This style of debating is long in the tooth in the house of commons. Generally it seems to be accepted as harmless political jousting. But I wonder if those involved are too close to really see its harmful impact on politics, politicians and the people they are meant to serve. Like fish who don’t see the water they swim in, they swim in a cesspool of toxic defence mechanisms. Born from a fearful society who believes that an individuals position and security depends on them always being right and beyond reproach. Mistakes and U-turns are not something to embrace, learn and grown from, but are seen as a point of shame, ridicule and weakness. This jousting doesn't only undermine our respect for and confidence in our politicians, but actually impinges their capacity to do their job.
I watched the reaction of a minister to criticism from an opposition MP. They were concerned about the impact that policies were having on certain, underprivileged children. Rather than taking notes or looking concerned, the Minister sat back in his seat, folded his arms, frowned and shook his head as in disbelief. He appeared totally shut down to any feedback or criticism. There is such an attitude of division and defensiveness in politics that any potential problems can’t be heard or considered, let alone understood and solved. This ministers reaction is not unique or rare but indicative of the attitude, ‘there is nothing wrong with what we are doing’.
How can we begin to find meaningful solutions unless we are primarily invested in revealing the truth about a problem. I can’t make a car go by changing the wheel if the problem is that we have run out of petrol. Truth is not something permanent to be claimed, but a reality that’s constantly in a state of flux and waiting to be discovered and understood. U-turn are not weakness but a necessary part of ongoing problem solving. Mistakes are not a point of shame, but a path to greater wisdom. If nobody is allowed to get it wrong in politics, we all suffer.
Interesting article. Nobody is allowed to get it wrong in politics, it’s systematically destroying us all and we can't do a damn thing about it.
So what can we do?
You know how this works by now.
It's easy enough to fess when you've been caught out, but think about a time when you righteously defended a mistake or deliberately covered it up. Imagine always having to do that? EX-HAUSTING. No wonder politicians look so grim.
This isn't about leaping up and proclaiming our mistakes from the rooftop, it's about being open to being wrong. Which means listening, and maybe saying, 'Hey, I'd never thought about it that way before.'
As always, be gentle with yourselves. Start small, start where you are. Practice. Catch yourself being a nob, stop, smile, congratulate yourself for noticing.