It’s interesting to observe tendencies in personality on the left of politics, as well as on the right. Obviously I know more about those on the left: they tend to be anti-authoritarian, questioning, creative, thoughtful, self-determining and passionate. The good thing about meetings with these kinds of people is that everyone has a voice, everyone gets heard and everyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s. There are no hierarchies, no chairs except rotating chairs (not literally), no officers except those voted in and maintained by the common will of the electorate – and so on. That’s the good side. The not-so-good side is that people on the left can be argumentative, even combative; mistrustful of anyone in a position of power, even if they have been voted into that position: and some people will quite literally argue about anything. Unless the chair is extremely skilled, you can find yourself in a meeting where arguments proliferate like nuclear weapons. There are not only arguments about policy – which are entirely necessary – but also about who should be allowed to argue and for how long and on what topics; there are often arguments about what language is permitted and what is proscribed; about what decisions can and can’t be taken by any particular meeting – and all of this can go on for so long and take up so much energy that no actual decisions get taken. One of the things I particularly liked about the founding conference was that the Standing Orders committee (who deal with procedural matters) were on a separate table and all points of order were taken to them. Nothing used to make my heart sink into my boots more than somebody popping up and saying ‘On a point of order, Chair!’
It really can be like herding cats. In addition to this, some people seem to come to, say, conferences with a particular idea that they wish to see adopted, and if they are voted down, they act as if the entire project is pointless and doomed. I am as attached as anyone to Leicester Left Unity’s idea about bringing the arts into politics, and I was very glad that we were heard at the Founding Conference; however I would never dream of saying that the whole project was pointless without it. And yet…
I’m not singling anyone out here. In general in Leicester we run our meetings without this kind of difficulty; so these are general observations based on my experience of Left politics over the years. But I think these are issues we need to get to grips with and understand if we are to build consensus. And consensus is something we all want….
All together now: What do we want?
Oh, and people on the right? I’m guessing they are more authoritarian and cohesive – but I could well be wrong.