Looking out my study window past Big Ben, I can see that there is no helicopter hovering over Downing Street. It’s all over, and it seems to have ended well. Or rather, begun well.
I just read an interesting comment on a Guardian blog from an American who said of the first coalition government press conference
Members of the press had clearly read the position paper that had been prepared and issued–and, to my delight, clearly didn’t accept some proposed “spin” at face value. (the resulting barbs from some of the media “questioners” were literate and intelligent but had EXTREMELY sharp points.)
I guess the thing that affected me the most (and I am old enough to have recognized if I had seen it what we in Texas call being “nasty-nice”, and, am also not so naive as to discount the incredible human and bureaucratic roiling that must be going on beneath the surface)–was the clear fact that everyone there (including the media) was displaying a basic respect and support for the “players” (Cameron and Clegg), for the tasks that face them and that they have undertaken, and for the fundamental need to respect and support the government put in place by the citizens (however that government evolved and came into being).
I compare that class and maturity with the displays, words and actions running amok in our country with respect to “government” and I want to weep.
Indeed. The handover went well, as it always does. I do not have much affection for the British constitution in general, but this country has got an awful lot right. I was struck and even a little moved, and not surprised by the generous tributes paid to Gordon Brown by some of his political enemies as he left the stage.
However keen the political disagreements the UK is relatively free of the kind of manufactured nastiness, the swiftboating, the Rovian-style smears, vote suppression campaigns and strident anti-intellectualism that characterizes much of American politics — though the House of Commons is an adversarial circus. Tellingly, though, the moment that stood out in a flashback review of Brown’s career was the moment Vince Cable made a gentle but devastating jibe about his transformation from Stalin to Mr. Bean.
Satisfyingly, the tatooed knuckle fraternity, the British National Party, had a disastrous election. And the poppiest-eyed Little Englander, Nigel Farage, the odious buffoon who achieved some calculated notoriety by personally insulting the President of the European Council in the European parliament, ended his campaign upside down in a field, lucky to be alive after a plane crash. There was something slightly poetic about the fact that the plane was an eccentric-looking Polish contraption, and that he was, quite literally, hoist on a petard of his own making. Instead of trailing behind the plane his banner became entangled in the tail and caused the crash. Farage finished 3rd, behind the independent candidate Flipper the Dolphin. As they say, his campaign never got off the ground.
Across the Atlantic, the even more ludicrous Sarah Palin hasn’t crashed yet. However, this blog post about her next book is the drollest thing I’ve read today. (The anti-emetic properties of ginger was news to me! Googling this I discovered ginger’s carminative properties too. Now there’s a word!!)
With any luck a new voting system will see the Liberal Democrats in government for a long time yet, perhaps even with Clegg as the senior partner eventually.