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Posts Tagged ‘David Cameron’

As I write this, the British public are voting for their new government. I hear it could possibly be the closest election in UK history and another coalition will probably have to be created.

I have watched this election cycle with some interest. While today’s polling outcome will not affect me directly which I admit is part of the attraction, I believe it has held my attention mainly because the campaigning hasn’t gone on so long that I’ve become numb to the main players and their party messages. It may not feel like it to UK citizens but your democratic process is a sprint compared to our grueling marathon of a system.

I mean in the US, our next presidential election is eighteen months off and already we have half a dozen Republican candidates who’ve thrown their hats in the ring with who knows how many more on the horizon. Forgive us if our eyes glaze over because the American public will soon be enduring infuriatingly negative TV ads, incessant campaign phone calls (for those still possessing a land line) and a whole lot of mud-raking, fact twisting and pseudo-patriotic rhetoric being thrown about for the next year and a half. Not to mention the caucuses, primaries and conventions that predict, eliminate and finally anoint the official candidates for the actual general election. The UK’s twenty-five day campaign period sounds like an impossible dream that could never be achieved matter how desperately we wish it to be so.

So how have I been following this more imminent election, you may ask? Well, I did watch a portion of the Leaders’ Debate on YouTube.

Seven party leaders on one stage - debate or game show image credit ITV

Seven party leaders on one stage – debate or game show
image credit ITV

It was a bit overwhelming, but I got the gist of it. Farage is a xenophobe. Cameron, as you would expect, is defensive. Miliband is being mistaken for Tony Blair and Nick Clegg is still in the doghouse for breaking his no-tuition fees promise from the last election.

I realize I have no right to suggest what’s best for another country’s people, but based on that debate performance perhaps your best option is to allow the ladies to form a coalition and let them get on with running things. Though with the SNP and Plaid Cymru as two-thirds of equation, you might not have much of United Kingdom left in the end.

Apart from the aforementioned debate the rest of my political research comes from my telly viewing (of course). I have the background of shows like Yes, Minister, The Thick of It and House of Cards. That’s not to insinuate that any of the current leaders would go to the cold-blooded extremes of Francis Urquhart.

I also watched the TV movie Coalition for more understanding on how the current government was negotiated.

 

I was taken with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s dilemma between joining the Tories or Labour and his idealistic desire to finally put his party in a position to make a difference in government. Alas I didn’t know about Tuition-gate nor the fact that Clegg had the option to pull out of the coalition when it was obvious the Tories weren’t going to play nice. I understand this would have forced another election, but he apparently chose to go with the status quo which turned him into an ineffectual deputy prime minister instead.

There has been one series, however, that has really given me the clearest picture of this highly-contested national campaign and that is the satirical sitcom, Ballot Monkeys. In it we follow the campaign teams of the four major parties as they travel up and down the country trying to inspire the British public to vote for them. There is nothing more revealing than seeing things from the point of view of a politician’s staff.

Conservatives

Desperate for the women’s vote and trying hard not to come across as posh toffs, the Tories seem to be sending a mixed message about who their leader really is – David or Boris.

 

Labour

Ed Miliband has the loyalty and trust of his party staff. Nevertheless, their campaign strategy is to focus on the team rather than their leader who they perceive as having some public appeal issues.

 

Lib Dems

Having your leader be seen as a failure has put a lot of pressure on Lib Dem coordinator Kevin Sturridge (Ben Miller) in particular. He carries on his shoulders the stress of supporter apathy and the virtual shunning of his entire party in the media. It’s bound to take a toll on such a committed supporter.

 

UKIP

And finally we come to UKIP. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Farage’s Army are portrayed as ultra-nationalistic, anti-immigrant and homophobic as well as violent. Poor Gerry Stagg (Andy Nyman) seems to be the only level head in the entire party, but he’s wasted by constantly having to stamp out fires created by supporters, candidates and the party leader himself.

 

I realize Ballot Monkeys is deliberately exaggerating the foibles of the candidates and the character of their voter base. That being said, no party gets preferential treatment and everyone gets roasted equally. Another aspect of this show is that they waited until the last minute to film each episode so national events and the inevitable campaign trail gaffes could be included in a timely fashion. If that’s not a commitment to accuracy, I don’t know what is.

Since I’m not a UK citizen (and under a UKIP government, I never will be), I obviously don’t have a vote. Nor do I have the perspective of one who lives under the unique conditions and problems of that country. However, I did take a 25 question on-line quiz which identified the party with which I most agree philosophically. Let’s just say my coalition’s color would be orange…

As my British readers go to the polls today  I bid you to vote your conscience whatever your political views might be. It’s the way democracy works and if you don’t like the outcome you only have to wait five years at the most to change it!

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10 Downing Street

As a youngster, I remember a show on PBS called Yes, Minister.  I don’t recall much about it, but I knew it was about the British government and there was a laugh track.  Last week, Great Britain announced a new Prime Minister from the Conservative party, David Cameron.  I still don’t know much about politics in the UK.  I should probably be better informed about world events, but the older I get the harder it gets to make myself care about politics.  Even when my party of choice is in power, as it is now, skepticism sets in quickly. I have seen this scenario too many times; the gridlock of a two-party system combined with the impatience and short-term attention span of the American public guarantee that very little will get accomplished and when a law or program does get passed, half the country will hate it.  

How does the UK differ in its approach to democracy?  (Yes, the Brits have a Queen and a democracy.  I’m always surprised that there are some Americans who don’t realize that.)  The voters don’t actually vote for their Prime Minister, but for particular MPs in a party.  And general elections are not held on specific dates or at regular intervals, but must occur at least every five years.  Now I would like to illustrate this process by taking a page from my tv lessons on British politics – The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard. 

A wife, mother and grocery store manager, Ros Pritchard has gotten fed up with the state of politics and decides to run for MP (member of Parliament) just to make a point.  This grassroots idea grows and grows until women from all over the country have joined to form the Purple Alliance.  Eight weeks later the general election takes place and the Purple Alliance has won a majority of seats in Parliament.  As Mrs. Pritchard is the face and heart of this movement, the professional politicians within the Alliance convince Ros to accept the post of Prime Minister with Catherine Walker, a former opponent who defected from her own party to join the Purples, as her Deputy.  Ros is whisked off to the customary meeting with the Queen wherein Her Majesty asks the newly elected Prime Minister to form a government. 

So there it is – a brief and very incomplete tutorial on the political process in the UK based on a tv drama.  (That sounds like an Emmy awards category!) For more accurate information on the most recent election here’s a link to BBC News.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/election_2010/default.stm

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