Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Adversarial politics have their place, but it's not within the executive.

There is nothing wrong with adversarial politics. In fact, it is healthy and often essential in ensuring informed debate and productive outcomes. Parties holding each other to account across the chamber should ensure that those entering the fray have their facts correct and their arguments solid, knowing that they will be tested mercilessly by their opponents.

Where it becomes a problem is when those who form the Executive forget that they are now part of a different grouping altogether, where the focus is not on combative politics but one of coalition. Yes, it is to an extent mandatory coalition, but only mandatory in the sense that if you want to be in the executive you have to accept that there will be others within it. No party is forced into the coalition and all are free to leave. With that in mind, those who do decide to enter the coalition must do so with a mindset of working together with the other partners for the greater good. After all, the executive is designed to provide governance and leadership for all and by all.

Unfortunately, the current crop of incumbents pay no heed to such designs. Parties stick together and kick their opponents wherever and whenever they can. They do not work together, but stay within their silos and only come out to support another Minister if they are from their party. Consequently we have each department battling each other for priority and funding. That sort of battle occurs in every government across the world. The difference is that it is usually done behind closed doors and the leaders of the government eventually decide what way to go and then present as a united grouping.

There are plenty of commentators who bemoan the lack of an opposition (quite rightly) but often forget that there already exists an opposition of sorts; the rest of the Assembly. Our MLA's are there to work on our behalf and question the decisions of the executive. Of course what actually happens is that Sinn Fein MLA's go easy on Sinn Fein Ministers, DUP MLA's go easy on DUP Ministers and so on and so on, so that there is no accountability to the public, only to the parties.

There is no coalition in any sense. The executive doesn't function as it was intended. Those who are fortunate enough to be ministers must remember that whilst in those roles, they are an Executive member first and a party member second. We need leadership and we need our government to work as a team. It's been a pretty poor showing so far.

No comments:

Post a Comment