You are a senior manager in a large and important organisation. One lunchtime, your boss discreetly calls you and a manager from a different department into her office. She tells you, quietly and seriously, that something has gone very wrong in an area of delivery for which the two of you share responsibility. She asks you both for an explanation.
Choose your response.
A) We’re both very sorry. Something’s gone wrong, and we’ll work together to figure out what happened and how we can resolve it as quickly as possible.
B). Well, it wasn’t me, it was her! And even if I did get some things wrong, her department got it much more wrong, and everything was much worse that time you put them in charge!
Which do you think would be most likely to get you politely escorted to the door, clutching a cardboard box and a P45?
And yet inexplicably, response B is the option that not only the First Minister but also Glasgow City Council plumped for today, when discussing the fact that many parents cannot access the 600 hours of free childcare to which we are allegedly entitled.
Kezia Dugdale asked the First Minister what she was going to do about it. The First Minister told her that the problems in Glasgow were all the Labour Council’s fault, so she should speak to them if she wanted to get it sorted. The SNP backbenches erupted in joy. The aforementioned Glasgow City Council, in the person of Cllr Stephen Curran, put out a statement saying that whatever they might think, what parents actually wanted were changes to national policies and that Glasgow City Council was really doing a magnificent job on childcare, even though lots of pesky parents kept pretending it wasn’t.
What I find especially dispiriting about it all is that I bet everyone involved was very pleased with themselves. The First Minister had turned a difficult question back on the Labour party, and the Council had responded quickly to make quite clear where they thought the blame lay. But nobody lifted a finger to improve the situation, and no parent or child was at all better off at the end of this unfortunate and unedifying day in politics.
Well, as politicians are so fond of saying, let me be clear. I want politicians to stop focusing on making their party look good and start concentrating on fixing problems. I couldn’t care less who sorts this out: I just want some of our leaders to take responsibility, act like grown-ups and stop blaming each other. Perhaps they ought to spend some time in their own local nurseries – on today’s evidence, toddlers might have something to teach them about adult behaviour.