There are couples we all know who appear not to be able to live together nor live apart. They bicker and feud all marriage or partnership long, neither finding much to like or praise about the other. Often, the banter is good-natured, if a little wearing for its audience, and some really do like an audience. They tend not to put on such a performance when it’s just the two of them and rub along just dandy with small kindnesses and shared habits, born of living closely together. Secret rituals which puzzle the onlooker.
Others though, have you wincing at the barbs and the taunts and wondering why they don’t just split up. Having voiced this to a few such couples I’ve encountered in my time, the reaction is almost one of disbelief. The thought has never occurred to them. Or if it has, there are ready excuses as to why they stay.
Occasionally, you get to witness sublime moments of affection, instances which make you truly stop and wonder and admire. But then they go and spoil it. Back to business as usual, the default setting of a pattern of ingrained behaviour, a cycle which neither are willing nor wont to break.
A bit like the SNP and Labour over the bedroom tax. Here is an issue upon which both parties are agreed in opposing, for largely similar reasons. Listen to any MSP from either party and you’d be hard pushed to determine which is which. Holyrood’s welfare reform committee is united in demanding its downfall.
At first, Labour called on the SNP government to do more with the powers we have in Scotland to mitigate against its pernicious effects. The SNP was unmoved. Both parties have said they will abolish it, Labour if it wins the 2015 UK General election, the SNP if Scotland votes yes in September and assumes powers over welfare and benefits.
Both parties have made efforts at local government level to find routes around it, though some local administrations appear not to have got their party memos and have justified not doing anything with the powers they have to address it. Often it’s been as petty as if the Labour/SNP opposition group moves for a stand to be taken, the Labour/SNP led administration refuses to support it.
Find £50 million from the Scottish budget, Labour cried. You could if you really wanted to, they blustered. Tell us what you’d cut instead, the SNP demanded. We would if we could, the party of government countered.
And then, yesterday, a breakthrough. The Depute First Minister has indeed found the necessary readies to offset its impact but needs Westminster to allow the Scottish Government to breach its arbitrary rules on housing discretionary grant.
Labour’s response? Effusive acclamation? Dinna be daft. Apparently, that’s not what the Scottish Government should be doing. Apparently it should be adopting and advocating a scheme developed in East Lothian which appears to achieve the same effect as Jackie Baillie’s bill without the need for legislation.
The SNP’s response? Rejoicing that a further solution has been found? Naw. Our way or no way it would appear.
It would cost both parties zilch to welcome each other’s efforts to find solutions. Even if they had to grit their teeth, surely they could share this platform and demonstrate their determination to find common cause. That occasionally we can be better together when we find ways of going it alone.
But so used have they become to the snipe of day to day politics, they cannot even countenance a ceasefire. By habit and repute, they are set on a course of constant arty bargy, desperate to find the next stair heid in which to stage a rammy.
And we the voters, the onlookers are left scratching our heads in bewilderment. Is it too late to hope that they could all stop for a moment and reflect on why they came into politics in the first place?