Working across the divide

This may come as a surprise to you, but one of the more enjoyable conversations I had over the festive season was with my predecessor as MP, Michael Moore.

It wasn’t a chance meeting, as we were brought together by Radio 4 for a news piece they were putting together on relationships in politics.

One of the last times Michael and I had been with each other was when I won the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk seat for the SNP in last May’s Westminster election. It was a pretty tense night, and he had to go through the extra stress of realising not only that he’d lost the seat he held for 18 years, but that he’d come third.

Of course, I was delighted to win in the SNP landslide which swept Scotland that night. But I was conscious that democratic politics can be brutally painful for the losers.

Michael was a diligent and caring local MP who was well respected.

But he was also a leading member of a Liberal Democrat party which propped up a right-wing Tory government and its hugely unpopular austerity policies, so it was always likely that he, like so many of his colleagues, wouldn’t survive.

He took his defeat with dignity and didn’t try to make any excuses.

He remains a Lib Dem and his politics do differ from mine, though we share a good number of political values and I know he continues to be respected across the constituency. I enjoyed hearing about how he’s getting on.

Hard-working local politicians are in tune with the priorities and issues in their area and get things done – dedication to communities can and does yield real results for constituents, and that should be the priority for any MP or MSP.

Of course, I’m passionate about the party I was elected to represent, but my primary aim is always going to be winning the best deal possible for this fantastic region of Scotland and the people who live here.

To do that, you have to work with politicians from across the divide. I don’t have a problem with that. Outside the unedifying bearpit of the Commons chamber, many (though sadly, not all) of my MP colleagues are decent people whose priority, like me, is to work for the people who elected them.

No matter where we are on the political spectrum, we can often find common ground.

For instance, I’m currently discussing an extension of the Borders Railway to Carlisle with Tory MPs from the North of England, and they’re sympathetic to the idea.

It’s the kind of non-partisan approach which can build a strong case and persuade those in power to listen. It is usually far more productive than simply being negative and always hitting out at your political opponents for the sake of it.

Being a moaning maverick doesn’t get anyone anywhere.

That’s a lesson one or two of our local politicians could learn, but Michael Moore isn’t among them.

He’s an intelligent and decent man, and it was good to see him again.

I wish him the very best for the future.