The last month or so has seen Britain listening to the main political parties vying to be our new leaders and then executing their democratic right by casting their votes. What it resulted in was….well, a surprise.
Under the current voting system a party has to win 326 ‘seats’ (elected members of parliament) to have a majority and therefore form the new government – but none of the parties managed this task. The Conservatives (similar in ilk to American Republicans) attained 307, Labour (a bit right of socialist), who were the current government , got 258, and the third largest party – The Liberal Democrats (the name should be a clue) – scored a lowly but very significant 57. So the days after the election saw plenty of theorising and negotiating who would ally with who until finally the Conservatives and Liberals announced yesterday that they would form a coalition and govern together.
So….bored yet? Well wait just a moment. You see this is rather a special event. Not since the second world war has Britain had a coalition government. To be honest most think it completely unworkable. But in the last few hours I’ve sat and watched the new leadership team of the Prime Minister (David Cameron – Conservative) and Deputy PM (Nick Clegg – Liberal) host a joint press conference and emerge…rather well indeed.
They both spoke of a new future of politics not hampered by short-termism and defending old positions. They honestly looked excited by the idea, as if it had come as some sort of revelation, a kind of ideological burning bush on the road to Downing Street. The fact that their parties are traditionally diametrically opposed was talked about in terms of balance and representative of the nation. They laughed together, cracked jokes, and even managed to ride a few cranky journalists trying to cause them trouble. By the time they took their collective leave and walked back into number 10 together the assembled crowds, and even several Twitterers that I follow, all seemed lifted by what they had seen.
Of course it’s early days, and trouble waits very obviously on the immediate horizon thanks to the financial crisis affecting the world, but I have to say that to these cynical old eyes I feel I may have witnessed something of a landmark. Can two become one, setting aside hardened dogma for the benefit of the greater good? I have reservations, but you know what? I’m willing to give these guys a bit of room. Co-operative politicians with a bigger picture mentality and an actual sense of humour? Never thought I’d see the day….