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Poor opposition encourages poor government

By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

One party dominance of council’s or government seldom ends well – for us as citizens or our political masters. Frank McKenna reflects on the state of democracy in the UK.

The report about the poor performance of Liverpool City Council this week is a further example of poor political opposition encouraging lazy governance.

The council is dominated by one party – in this instance Labour – with the official opposition led by an ineffective leader and a decimated Liberal Democrat group.

In the absence of effective challenge and scrutiny – and having effectively become a one-party state -Liverpool Labour started to initially turn in on itself, with high profile spats, fallouts, and sackings, involving Mayor Joe Anderson and some of his Comrades, followed by the adoption of a laissez faire attitude to council procedures.

Ironically, a decade or so earlier, a similar implosion impacted on the dominant Liberal Democrat group. Under the leadership of Mike Story, the Lib Dems had dominated the city’s political landscape for ten years, reducing Labour to a rump.

Once again, that dominance translated into hubris. Story fell out with his chief executive David Henshaw, and an array of shenanigans led to the demise of Story, and then his party, in the space of five years. 

Put aside the idiosyncrasies of politics in Liverpool though, and you will see other examples of the failure of opposition effectively challenging controlling parties impacting negatively on democracy.

The issues that are currently being heatedly debated at Holyrood suggest that the SNP have challenges internally and externally. The relationship between the political executive and other public bodies seem dubious to me.

And we all remember the internal warfare that Theresa May had to manage during her tenure as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party.

In both Nicola Sturgeon’s case, and successive Tory governments since 2010 now, the poor calibre of their opponents has resulted in a poorer performance from those in positions of power.

One-party rule has never worked in Communist countries. It works no better in the UK, at a local or national level.

It is time for our mature democracy to explore the possibility of electoral reform, at least at local council level. However, as the Scottish example shows, even that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better outcome.

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