- Listen carefully to all points of view and seek fully to understand what concerns and motivates those with differing views from our own;
- Acknowledge that there are many points of view and that these have validity alongside our own;
- Show respect and courtesy to all individuals and organisations, whatever views they may hold and however they may express them;
- Express our own views clearly and honestly with transparency about our motives and our interests;
- Use language carefully and avoid personal or other remarks which might cause unnecessary offence;
- Ask questions if we do not understand what others are saying or proposing;
- Respond to questions asked of us with clarity and openness;
- Support what we say with clear and credible information wherever that is available.
It’s a simple solution but it’s also one which would require a bit of determination to see to the end. After all, many of us (including myself) have a pre-disposition to lose objectivity when debating something which is important to us.
I’ll only single out one person for criticism in light of this week’s events. It pains me to do it as he has rocked a Tash in the past (and his appearance before the US Senate was absolutely tremendous) but he really could do with learning a lesson in sensible and useful debate. I am talking about George Galloway MP:
Mr Galloway is a member of the Respect Party. However, I fear the foundations upon which the party were built have been washed away; perhaps by all the Bollinger he was drinking to celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher. This is part of an emerging pattern: he recently left a debate at the Oxford Union simply because his opponent (a student) was Israeli. Mr Galloway says that he “does not debate with Israelis”.
In the wake of Baroness Thatchers death, he said on twitter “tramp the dirt down”. Do we really need that? Is it not enough to simply disagree with someone? In the spirit of debate, I’ll let you all decide.