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In Praise Of Compromise

02/08/2017 12:33
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I was struck by Dennis Skinners' comments in the Observer this weekend that he has "never done any cross-party stuff" and that he has "no interest in sitting down discussing pensions or whatever with Tories". While it is no surprise that the Best of Bolsover is no fan of the Conservative Party, it led me to think about what Mr. Skinner has achieved in his 47 years in the House.

His achievements got me to reflect on the fact that perhaps by sticking to one's convictions so rigidly, you can in some ways let down the people you so passionately care about, and maybe Mr. Skinner has fallen into to this trap. While firm principles are admittedly a laudable and respectable feat, I can't help but wonder if an unbending world view means more amicable compromises are sacrificed.

The interview also prompted me to wonder about the political landscape in both the UK and the US. I feel that there is an underlying trend here. It seems to me that - whichever side you are on, and regardless of the issue, there is no room for compromise. It is ok to passionately disagree and to stand by your values at all cost, but surely sometimes the more beneficial route is to come together and form a workable solution for all parties.

Take our personal lives, for example, where we make decisions every day that require compromise. For me, it may be a question of who is taking the kids to school in the morning, what we are going to eat in the evening, or even where we are going to go on holiday in the summer. This process of debate followed by compromise, means we come to a collective position that, we hope, is in the best interests of all.

I run a business with my brother, and being siblings we of course naturally gravitate to directly opposing views points - even if sometimes we are just being stubborn out of spite. While my childhood self would love to win every disagreement against my little brother, we both realise it is more beneficial to weigh up each other's opinions and come to a mutually agreeable decision. The business only works because we both have separate areas that we take ownership for, whilst we share the big decisions together. This careful and considered balancing act couldn't work if we always stayed rigid in our original convictions.

I wish the same process was applied to our politicians.

Let's look at the current debate over Brexit, which is being steered through the lens of a Conservative Party civil war. This internal feud means that the public's interest for the best deal has been disregarded in favour of power play. We can all agree that Brexit is a passionate topic whichever side you are on, and one that some have been fighting for their whole political lives, but the lack of compromise means they are in danger of achieving nothing. However, this time a lot more is at stake. Our EU counterparts have long agreed a collective position that is transparent with clear objectives and red lines.

Compromise is an art form, built through the skills of persuasion, debate and democratic resolution. It is well known that political debates can be fiery affairs, but sometimes it can be forgotten that negotiation and co-operation are just as important as fighting your corner when it comes to public speaking, and ultimately decision-making.

John McCain's speech to the Senate floor last week sums it up perfectly. He remarked that "the most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America's problems and to defend her from her adversaries."

Without compromise, democracy falters. The clearest and most relevant example of this today is the repeated attempts to repeal Obamacare by the Republican controlled Senate, and the subsequent problems this is causing. Without compromise, the Trump administration has lost support from its own side, resulting in a complete shutdown of the legislative agenda and an ever more polarised political landscape.

So, I am left wondering whether Dennis Skinner, the Brexiters and Donald Trump, despite their widely different views and takes on the world, actually share something in common. An inability to deliver due to a lack of compromise.

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