Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Budget - a more personal reflection

I have found some of the coverage of the Budget process in the Scottish Parliament vaguely interesting, but most of it rather dull and predictable. It’s really easy to come to some of the conclusions that many of the journalists have come to, and to an extent they perpetuate many of the stereotypes of politicians. Winners and losers. Players and wannabes.

I don’t want to engage with the ins and outs of all the analysis, but rather put my tuppence worth in from a more personal point of view.

For me, the most interesting element to this whole Budget situation has been John Swinney (I hope he doesn’t mind being described as an element!). Having worked for John a few years ago, I was privileged to see at close quarters both how he worked and what he was really like.

And I have to say, as I’m sure I have done before on this blog, that John is a thoroughly decent, hard-working, principled, genuine bloke. He also has a very good sense of humour – something that comes in very handy in the rough and tumble world that politics can be!

His skill in navigating the Government’s Budget through parliament is not due, in my opinion, to him being an ‘operator’ or ‘master manipulator’ – skills that many people in politics have to utilise because they are lacking in others… Rather, his strengths have been his intellect and honesty. He is good at what he does because he knows his brief. He was able to pull together broad agreement because he is a straightforward negotiator, with the best of intentions. You can’t catch somebody like that out, because they aren’t hiding anything or playing tricks.

As for the suggestion that Patrick Harvie (or more accurately the Scottish Green Party group – don’t forget Robin Harper!) has been punished for his/their actions last week, I think that is unfair. I’m sure it was the instinctive reaction of many who wanted the Budget to pass last week, but that’s not how John works. I’m sure he will be disappointed that the Greens did not get on board, but I sincerely doubt he will freeze them out as an act of revenge. After all, he just worked with both the Lib Dems and Labour Party to secure a deal, despite their no votes last week (and the motivations of those parties were arguably less defensible than the Green position).

John Swinney – well done that man!

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