Good policies hampered by bad politics

Good policies hampered by bad politics

A Member of Parliament said this recently in Parliament, urging fellow politicians to work together to build a positive political culture: "Politicians must be aware of what political culture we are building through our style of political engagement as well as our actions.

"If you support a political party which believes in overthrowing the government by taking mass political action against the government regardless of the laws and proper channels to change things, you are building a culture of lawlessness.

"If you support a political party conducting its political engagement with a habit of playing racial politics and mud-slinging and launching personal attacks on its political opponents, you are building a thug political culture.

"While all politicians play a role in building a political culture through political engagement, the government is the dominant player of politics in Singapore, and plays a significant role."

All of this forms a point of view that responsible party leaders - and voters - would likely agree with. It would surely form part of what the Government wants to see in "constructive politics", which at its heart is about having a political system that will elect men and women of good character who can work together to come up with policies that are good for the people in the long term.

And yet, after that speech in Parliament, Workers' Party (WP) leader Low Thia Khiang - yes, he made those comments - was drawn into a heated exchange with the Prime Minister on constructive politics.

Mr Low's point was that a country's political culture matters. And what shapes that culture? The conduct of politicians, and from his viewpoint, especially government leaders.

In addition to that onslaught above, Mr Low interspersed his speech with further volleys: "If the people continue to support a government party that uses high-handed tactics against its political opponents, we are endorsing a bullying political culture.

"If the people support a governing party that uses governmental resources, including civil servants, to serve its partisan goals, we are condoning the abuse of political power as an acceptable culture.

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