The Mediation Times

 

A role for mediation in our new parliament

by Amanda on May 12, 2010

I have been watching the negotiations following our elections with great interest. The potential for politicians to work together in the interests of the country is an exciting prospect if one dares to hope they will do what they say they want to do.

There was a significant wobble in my enthusiasm during most of yesterday and by last night I felt a sense of gloom return. Like many, I thought Nick Clegg was acting very honourably until the point it was revealed that the LibDems had started secret discussions with the Labour Party. I was disappointed and it felt important to notice that. Someone once said that ‘a cynic is a disappointed optimist’.

It was important because Clegg seemed to be not doing what he said he would do (put the formation of a stable government first) and doing what he said he would not do (make Proportional Representation a deal breaker) and it seemed a little early in the day for changing minds and empty promises. OK so what’s new about that?

Thankfully, some mature minds in the Labour Party put a stop to that diversion on principle and we have an agreement. Credit where it is due for making that call. Even so, I don’t think the events of yesterday will be forgotten by the press and the political commentators. Arguably, we do now have an arrangement which reflects the votes cast last week.  A government with a decent majority but a tempered mandate and an opposition to provide checks and balances. This was achieved without a drastic change to the voting system. PR has a lot of drawbacks despite the appearance of a fairer system.

The challenge now is for the two parties in government to continue in a sensible and measured negotiations on a daily basis without displaying too much compromise or watering down in the decision making. That is important because we are going to need some tough and difficult decisions over the next weeks and months.

I do not want to see them squabbling; I don’t want to hear backbiting or sneaky briefings against colleagues; I don’t want to hear anymore stories about self-interested and self-serving activities. I want to see them work together, fiercely debate the issues that matter and demonstrate their first interest is public service. Only then can we can hope to maintain our independence and look after our citizens in order to be a strong member of the European Community. The price of not being a strong member is to lose the right to make independent choices, as Greece has recently discovered, and makes a mockery of any voting system if it comes down to ‘he who pays the piper, calls the tune.’

To that end this new government could do worse than have the assistance of experienced mediators working alongside keeping the communication and momentum going and marshaling options and choices.

The third eye, perspective, call it what you will, could make all the difference in helping the coalition build strength and trust. The most important of those being trust.

The benefits could be far reaching. Such a lead from the top would give encouragement to companies and organisations to follow and start a new era of agreement.

It is easy to disagree. The act of disagreeing can be addictive. It can also be confused with winning.

Added link: Law Gazette

1 comments
Joe Markowitz
Joe Markowitz

Interesting post. From across the pond, we were also interested in your recent elections. To me, they seemed to show the difficulty British politicians might be having in adapting from a winner-take-all system to a system requiring the formation of coalitions, as well as illustrating the complications of reaching agreements involving multiple parties. http://www.mediate-la.com/2010/05/multi-party-neg...

I also did a post this week on the need for coalition-building on our Supreme Court. It seems there is no end to the places where mediators are needed in every political system.

Previous post:

Next post: