Why can’t we all just get along? It sounds a reasonable and legitimate question, but it is one too many of us have failed to take heed of in recent years. To suggest that our politics has become increasingly polarised within the last decade is perhaps one of the few questions that would garner consensus across the political spectrum. Exogenous shocks from the Financial Crisis of 2008 to referendums on Scottish Independence and our membership of the European Union, coupled with the election of populist Donald Trump in 2016, have divided us at home and abroad. Despite this, they should never have acted as catalysts for us to begin treating one another with contempt. Whilst the rise of social media has given millions of people a platform they previously didn’t have, what wasn’t foreseen was the way it has allowed us to treat people who dare to hold an opinion that differs from our own. Iain Dale’s book: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along seeks to examine why we are becoming increasingly intolerant, a statement that can be levelled at all of us regardless of political colour, and how we can seek to rectify that. A timely, and necessary read for those of us that hold an opinion on anything.
Dale’s book is helpfully divided into three sections, with poignant anecdotes from listeners of his popular LBC shows featuring throughout. The first component addresses the media, which deserves a sizeable amount of blame for our intolerance today. A recurring theme is the specific problem with social media in 2020. Of course, it gives us our own voice online, and we can hold individuals to account in a way people could only dream of previously, but it unfortunately facilitates such an atmosphere whereby we speak to each other in a frankly, appalling way. Furthermore, the problem with the media goes beyond the conventional, and interviews with politicians have become incredibly unproductive, as interviewers seek their ‘gotcha’ moment and interviewees attempt to regurgitate their pre-prepared mantra. Little is gained by either side. Finally, a brief word on the problem of ‘fake news’ concludes this subsection. Upon acknowledging the, often problematic media, we can change our behaviour for the better and consume news in a more productive way.
The second and shortest part is entitled ‘Politics’ and rather than discuss the issues themselves, it focuses on much of the language we use and how to better improve the way we communicate our thoughts. Many politicians of recent years should take note of this advice. Johnson, McDonnell, Swinson, the list goes on. An important point is also made regarding giving an apology. We all probably give one too infrequently. Make no mistake, Dale’s book doesn’t only seek to emphatically criticise our behaviour, it more often than not highlights generous acts by individuals, yet he does not fear underlining inappropriate behaviour when necessary.
The final section is called ‘Issues’ and is most accurately a whistle-stop tour of Dale’s beliefs on everything from the NHS and Brexit to LGBT+ rights and poverty. As a self-described Thatcherite, you may be surprised to hear of his opinion on certain topics. I have always defined myself as someone on the left, and yet I am regularly in agreement with Dale throughout the final section. Here, common thoughts are deployed and subsequently challenged for what they are. Do we really love the NHS? Do all businesses engage in exploitation? Are millions living in poverty? Are we doing nothing to combat climate change? It will make uncomfortable reading for some, yet it is necessary that we question that which we have always believed. The extent to which each of us reside in an echo chamber will inevitably vary, but Dale certainly removes us from it at some point. Readable for those in and outside the political bubble, rather than intellectually stimulating it is fast-moving and bounces between topics and personal stories from Dale’s life to illustrate each point. The book concludes by outlining ’50 ways to improve public discourse’, and if you take anything from his work, make it this. We can all get along if we put our minds to it.