July 12, 2017 : Craig Wilson

You can keep your olive branch

For the first time since her humbling General Election result, Theresa May has broken cover to deliver a major address – billed by some as a re-launch (another?) of her leadership and government. Accepting that she had to face up to a ‘new reality,’ the Prime Minister appeared to hold out a hand of friendship to opposition parties – encouraging them to come forward with their own views to ‘clarify and improve’ policies and decision making.

While it’s debatable how serious May really is about hearing from her opponents, it is clear that they themselves have absolutely no interest in her offer. Giant marker pen in hand, Jeremy Corbyn was photographed signing the inside cover of his recent Labour manifesto with “you asked for policy ideas, so here’s our General Election Manifesto” – pretty good trolling, it must be admitted.

Evidently the urge to give the government a public kicking is too much for even Mr Corbyn to resist. Previously claiming that people are “totally turned off by a style of politics which seems to rely on the levels of clubhouse theatrical abuse that you can throw across at each other”, it now seems that his dedication to a “new kind of politics” may finally be over.

Also attempting to rebound from a bruising election campaign (and not yet ready to embark on her own stand-up career) the current First Minister too is planning a government re-launch in the Autumn. With the aim of breathing some new life in to a Party which has been in power for over 10 years, the move is rumoured to include a Cabinet re-shuffle and ‘radical’ measures to devolve more power to the community level. It is expected there will be some further clarification on the SNP stance on indyref2.

With a sniff of contrition in the air, this could have been the time for opponents to really make their mark – injection ideas and pushing the SNP further than they’d like to go. However, in almost identical fashion to the situation at Westminster, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives weighed in – claiming the SNP had simply run out of steam and ideas.

Is this just how it has to be in a party political system? The governing party swaggers around for a few years and then, when they find themselves limping, look to their chagrined opponents for a helping hand? Accepting this as a pretty consistent trend, can we really be surprised when opposition parties – keen to take the reins themselves – don’t play ball? For a certainty the SNP would do the same.

In the Westminster scenario, it is particularly evident that opposition parties (as well as a few Tories on the front and back benches) feel that Theresa May has lost legitimacy as Prime Minister and that her coat hangs on a very shoogly peg. Despite the fact that a hung parliament affords the opportunity to affect real change, the opposition simply doesn’t feel it’s in their interest to see their opponents stumble on for even a day more. Again, scoring points in the ring always counts for more.

Perhaps in these times of party wrangling, we can look to Britain’s most senior diplomatic official – an individual tasked with carrying out the most challenging and sensitive negotiations on the world stage. Surely this person would be able to provide us with sage advice and guidance…

Well, that is until you remember that individual is Boris Johnson and that he just told the entire European Union they could “go and whistle”, as they attempted to outline Brexit negotiating positions.

With political parties entirely unable to see past their hostility to one another and too often obsessed with point scoring than real action, is it again to be left to the sector to guide debate, shape policy and cast light in to the dark corners where changes must be made?

Important: Opinions expressed by bloggers are their own and don't represent those of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

by Craig Wilson