David Brownsey-Joyce considers why a politician’s greatest strength and weakness can be their mouth.
It was an interesting week for politicians. Dominic Raab MP worries that men are being left behind in the equalities agenda. Down in Portsmouth, Cllr Malcolm Hay walked out on the beginning of a council meeting because an Imam gave an opening prayer; and in Stoke-on-Trent two councillors indicated they would not be signing a Holocaust memorial book.
Dominic Raab, the Conservative MP for Esher, posted what is actually a really interesting blog on PoliticsHome.com outlining why he believes men are getting a raw deal despite tough anti-discrimination laws. He then spent the rest of the week defending this article and his stance against MPs from all parties to the extent where he was humbled by Theresa May in the House of Commons, whilst asking a really serious question regarding transferable maternity leave.
Whether you agree with the MP for Esher or not, he opened his mouth and told us what he thought. He didn’t backtrack or U-turn – he held his ground and tried to explain his point. Isn’t this what we want from politicians? Individuals who will tell us what they believe, who can come up with their own ideas rather than just toeing the party line.
In Portsmouth, a full meeting of the council saw one of its councillors walking out at the beginning as an Imam was delivering prayers to open the session, after being invited by the Lord Mayor. The councillor returned after the prayers were delivered but had walked out in protest, an act that has been denounced by rival councillors and has resulted in a letter calling for Cllr Hay to be expelled from the Conservative Party.
Whether this is a case of someone expressing their personal beliefs or someone who is simply living in a different time is debatable. The only individual who knows the answer to that is Cllr Hay. (Incidentally, Cllr Hay is on the Portsmouth Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education, which is a bit worrying).
In Stoke-on-Trent two councillors choose not to sign a council memorial book for Holocaust victims for different reasons. Cllr Kassem Al-Khatib said that he would not sign unless there was a memorial for acts of genocide against Palestinians, whilst Cllr Gavin Webb would not sign because of what he saw as the British Government’s hypocrisy in foreign policy.
When I first heard about this story I wanted to know more because I could not understand why someone would not sign a memorial book for the victims of the Holocaust when given the opportunity. I can understand Cllr Al-Khatib’s reasons considering the amount of Palestinians who have lost their lives over the disputed territories but I cannot understand Cllr Webb’s. Mainly because he has not expressed them in a way I can relate to.
The act itself can sometimes not be so much as important as the underlying explanation – the bookmark explaining why someone is doing what they are doing. Politicians sometimes get a bad reputation because they do not do a good enough job of explaining their actions.
Maybe this is why people gravitate to individual politicians with gravitas, a clear line of communication that we can understand and relate to. It doesn’t matter so much what they do so much as how they explain it and whether they can convince people of the reasons behind their actions.
We are all looking for a touch of realism from our politicians. A line of communication that allows us to step into their shoes and see why they are doing what they are doing. We might not agree with them all but we will understand them better and they in turn will not look so far out of touch from the masses.