A wish for truthful politics

30 January 2016

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Full Council Meeting , Meeting

An Extraordinary Full City Council Meeting was held on the state of the city this Friday. Our speeches can be summarised as: presentation of specific measures and readiness for dialogue. The opposition's speeches may be summarised as: criticism for the lack of specific measures and unwillingness for dialogue. People who've been attending these meetings for years tell me it's a classic. We all know a bit of play-acting goes on at full Council meetings, we weren't born yesterday. Each group comes along with its own strategy and prepared speeches. It's all the same whatever the other says, because there's no genuine listening or dialogue. The groups don't speak to one another, let alone the people they represent, as few can afford themselves the luxury of following six-hour meetings that demand real stamina. If politicians speak to anyone, it's to the press who will then construct an account of what happened, which they often end up reducing to headlines of “winners” and “losers” and picking out some biased pieces.

It's a game of institutional politics we accept when we put ourselves forward at elections, though we never give up our aim of gradually changing its rules, opening it up more and more to the people and getting party strategies to buckle down to genuine listening and dialogue, rather than the reverse. I would like to share my feelings here: when I leave these full council meetings between parties, I go away tired and disappointed with politics in general. Such feelings are the very opposite of what I experience when I come out of the meetings I've started to hold every fortnight with residents of different neighbourhoods all over the city. These are informal spaces, not covered by the press, where the ideas is to hold a “conversation” between residents and the mayor in the strict sense of the term: speaking, listening, asking, answering, giving opinions, challenging and proposing. They aren't planned, there are no prepared speeches, there's no strategy and we aren't looking for headlines. But what there is, in contrast, is the truth. We speak a good deal about new politics, about democratising, about having more transparency and bringing politics to the people and, basically, it can all be summed up in a single wish, a wish for truthful politics.

 

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This blog features ideas, thoughts and reflections on my daily life as the Mayor of Barcelona.

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