The Bickerstaffe Record

Being Labour, Cotterill on the Council, The world beyond West Lancashire

Iraq, Tanzania and mayoral imbalance

07.26.10 | Comment?

One of the mild amusements at last week’s Full Council meeting came when the Tory Mayor allowed a Tory councillor time to develop an analogy gleaned from his working life. 

This was about how he once went to Iraq, and how his experience of Sunni and Shi’ite divisions reminded him of his current experience of the Labour and Tory ‘tribes’ in the Council chammber.

At least that’s what I think he might have been on about.

When I came to respond, I sought to use my own experiences of  living and workig in the southern highlands of Tanzania, where the use of the ‘joking tribe’ was deliberately fostered under Julius Nyrere as a means to develop peaceful co-existence and is a significant factor in the fact that Tanzania has never seen any internal ethnic conflict as a modern state, and is unlikely to do (cf. neighbouring Kenya):

The essence of social relationships between tribes based on utani, mtani (joking relationships) supported cohesion between different ethnic groups. Joking relationships since pre-colonial time is a peculiar features existed between tribes in Tanzania. This type of social life and interaction created a strong feeling of friendship, neighborhood and later on shared identity between them.

There were several factors which created this type relationship between tribes.  The most common factor was neighborhood, especially, tribes which shared boundaries . The second factor was through conflict, for instance, the Ngoni created joking friendiships with other tribes in southern parts after being in conflict (wars) with them.

I wanted to suggest that the coming, no doubt joke-ridden, charity cricket match between the two parties might allow us to set to one side our hostilities for an afternoon, and ensure that democratic norms of local government continue to be respected even in the highly tense local government times to come.

The Tory mayor didn’t like me using analogies gleaned from my working life, though, and told me to get back to the topic.

Funny that. 

Perhaps he thought I might be stepping out from behind the handy stereotype of the Labour councillor.

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